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UN passes resolution on Sri Lanka, granting two year extension

The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a new resolution on Sri Lanka, granting it a further two years to implement a previous resolution from 2015 that mandates a hybrid accountability mechanism.

Resolution L.1 was adopted at the council in Geneva earlier today without a vote, after Sri Lanka announced it would be co-sponsoring it.

The resolution “requests the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”, and deliver updates at UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2020 and 2021.

The United Kingdom, which was speaking on behalf of the core group comprising Canada, Germany, Montenegro and North Macedonia, said the resolution “seeks to continue the process which Sri Lanka began at the Human Rights Council in September 2015 when it worked in partnership to set out a range of measures that it would take to advance peace, justice and reconciliation”.

Speaking at the council earlier today Britain noted that “in a few months’ time it will be the tenth anniversary of the end of the protracted armed conflict in Sri Lanka, a conflict in which many thousands of people died”. 

“This was a period in which serious human rights violations and abuses are reported to have been committed by both parties and in which people from all of Sri Lanka’s communities had to endure terrible suffering,” added the UK. “For many of the victims, especially the families of the missing and the disappeared, their suffering continues to endure.”

It went on to note that “in the 5 years following the end of the armed conflict Sri Lanka chose not to take many measures that would have helped to advance reconciliation, accountability and human rights”.

The UK then praised the current government, stating that “it remains to Sri Lanka’s great credit that in 2015 it committed, in front of the international community, to take a set of steps towards these ends that are in its national interest and in the interest of every community in the country”.

“The resolution acknowledges some very real achievements against these commitments over the last two years. It also recognises that in a number of important areas, implementation remains work in progress. The resolution encourages Sri Lanka to accelerate its efforts to achieve full implementation of its 2015 undertakings and to set out a time-bound implementation plan to help it to make progress. It requests OHCHR to continue to strengthen its engagement with Sri Lanka and requests annual reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner for a further two years.”

Read the full text of the UK statement here.

Read the full text of the adopted resolution here.

Yesterday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented her report on Sri Lanka to the council, and warned that continued impunity on the island could fuel further violence.

In response, the Sri Lankan foreign minister rejected much of her report and said his government would not allow a hybrid mechanism to take place, as mandated by previous resolutions. 

In a shorter statement to the council today, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Thilak Marapana reiterated his earlier comments, stating,

“As I put on record before this Council yesterday, we have to set our priorities right and we are committed to find innovative and pragmatic solutions to protect the country’s national interest and the well-being of all Sri Lankans alike, guided by the provisions of the supreme law of the land – The Constitution”.

“Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of this year’s Resolution assures to all concerned persons, the Sri Lankan society at large, and to all our interlocutors outside the country, that we will continue to move forward within these parameters, to ensure eventual closure,” he added.

See the full text of the Sri Lanka statement here.