Human Rights Watch acknowledges the Sri Lankan government’s engagement with the international community, including with the UN’s special procedures, over the last two years.
We share however the concerns expressed by High Commissioner Zeid at the slow pace of progress in implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 30/1. The promised office on enforced disappearances has yet to be established, although enabling legislation was passed in June 2016. Legislation to establish three other transitional justice mechanisms pledged under the 30/1 resolution remain in draft form.
We are also concerned about other undertakings in the resolution that have not been implemented. A key issue is security sector reform that, barring a handful of prosecutions in high-profile cases, has simply not occurred. Torture by the security forces remains endemic, a fact underscored by the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on torture as well as by Human Rights Watch and other groups. The government talks about a “zero-tolerance” policy against torture while in Geneva, but takes no action back home.
Everyone wants Sri Lanka to be a success story. But it is not helped when the legislation to create the Office of Missing Persons was adopted without real consultation. It is not helped when the report of the Consultation Task Force on transitional justice – the product of extensive national consultations – is dismissed by officials at the highest level as an “NGO report,” obscuring that the report was prepared by independent persons appointed by the government, and provides a blueprint for designing the transitional justice mechanisms. It is not helped when senior government officials, including President Maithripala Sirisena, repeatedly make public statements promising to defend the security services from accountability, calling into question the government’s willingness to comply with its undertakings in the resolution.
Sri Lanka took a strong step in co-sponsoring resolution 30/1, raising hopes and the promise of reconciliation, reform and justice - but the pace of progress, combined with contradictory government statements back home, risk undermining the confidence and trust so important to a successful outcome. We urge the government to accept the findings of the Consultation Task Force, to develop a time-bound implementation plan of all elements in the resolution, and we call on UN member states to remain engaged until all commitments in the resolution are met in full.