The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein noted frustration over the “slow pace of reforms” in Sri Lanka and said the absence of action on accountability meant exercising universal jurisdiction was “even more necessary”.
Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, the human rights chief called on Sri Lanka to live up to commitments it had made to the international community.
“I encourage the Government to act on its commitment in Resolution 30/1 to establish transitional justice mechanisms, and to establish a clear timeline and benchmarks for the implementation of these and other commitments,” he said.
“This should not be viewed by the Government as a box-ticking exercise to placate the Council, but as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all its people,” he continued.
“The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary.”
His comments come after Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Brazil, former military general Jagath Jayasuriya, fled to Sri Lanka after human rights groups filed lawsuits accusing him of overseeing war crimes.
Mr Al Hussein also called on the Sri Lankan government to “swiftly operationalize the Office of Missing Persons and to move faster on other essential confidence building measures, such as release of land occupied by the military, and resolving long-pending cases registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act”.
“I repeat my request for that Act to be replaced with a new law in line with international human rights standards,” he added.
He also noted that the lack of credible action on these important issues had been felt by Tamils on the island. “In the North, protests by victims indicate their growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms,” he stated.
The High Commissioner concluded his address by stating,
"In the first three years of my current term, the world has grown darker and dangerous. My vision for the work of my Office has become more determined, drawing even more deeply on the lessons which come to us from our forbears: human rights principles are the only way to avoid global war and profound misery and deprivation. In continuing to lead this Office I am inspired by movements of people standing up in many countries in defiance of the indefensible. They seek, not power or personal profit; what they seek is justice".
See the full text of his statement here.