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UN Working Group concerned over ‘climate of impunity’ in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka continues to have a “climate of impunity” said a UN Working Group report this week as it reiterated the importance of “international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” in an accountability mechanism for mass atrocities.

“While welcoming progress in the implementation of some recommendations, it notes that many have only been partially addressed or have not been addressed at all,” said the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances after a follow up visit to Sri Lanka. 

“The Working Group regrets that neither a judicial accountability mechanism nor a truth seeking mechanism have been created,” it added. “It re-iterates the importance of the swift establishment of both mechanisms. With regards to the judicial mechanism, it highlights the importance of integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.” 

The Group also said it was “extremely concerned by continuing reports of surveillance, threats, intimidation, harassment of relatives of the disappeared and calls on the Government to take urgent action to address these, including investigation of previous and new cases and the prosecution of perpetrators”.

It went on to add,

“The Working Group further observes that there remains a climate of impunity in Sri Lanka and a lack of actions envisaged to address this”. 

“The Working Group is concerned by the slow pace of criminal investigations, in particular that it remains the case that only a few emblematic cases have reached the trial stage and none have concluded. It is also very concerned by an alleged incident of obstruction by the Office of the Attorney General in the investigation of a case and information that the armed forces continue to intervene in ongoing cases and have delayed or provided inaccurate information in court proceedings. It further notes worrying information received according to which some individuals suspected of having been involved in the commission of enforced disappearances and related offences are being permitted to remain in positions of power including within the armed forces and the police. In this regard, it expresses serious concern at the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army in August 2019, despite there being serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and soldiers under his command, including enforced disappearances.” 

See the full text of the report here.