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March 14, 2017
Item 4 – GD
Human Rights Situations Requiring the Council’s Attention
Pasumai Thaayagam remains deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
Operative paragraph 6 of Resolution 30/1 embodied a significant acknowledgment by this Council: accountability proceedings involving independent, international experts are imperative in a country in which a culture of impunity has been historically entrenched.
Sri Lanka co-sponsored this resolution. Sri Lanka agreed to involve international judges and lawyers in an accountability mechanism. Since then however, senior officials have repeatedly retracted that commitment in public statements.
Pasumai Thaayagam is encouraged by the High Commissioner’s report this session, which repeats the call for international involvement in a credible judicial mechanism. Accountability provides the vital function of redressing the victims of abuses, and, crucially, of building trust for the future. The Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka continue to suffer the impacts of past abuses. A lasting peace requires a robust accountability process.
Pasumai Thaayagam strongly urges the Council to keep its focus on the victims, and to hold Sri Lanka to account for its promises.
March 14, 2017
Item 4 – Interactive Dialogue with Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Thank you Mr. Vice-President.
Pasumai Thaayagam welcomes the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.
The work of the International Commission in establishing the facts and circumstances surrounding the heinous events in Syria has laid an incredibly important foundation: it has begun the evidence gathering process such that the perpetrators of abuses and violations of international law, including those who may be responsible for crimes against humanity, can be held accountable. The emphasis in Resolution 33/23 on the importance of information collection in support of future accountability efforts, and the particular emphasis on information on those who have allegedly violated international law, has allowed for this.
Pasumai Thaayagam would especially highlight the strong recommendation by the Commission for the establishment of International, Impartial and Independent accountability mechanism in conjunction with the General Assembly’s resolution. The use of independent, international experts in accountability proceedings is crucial in countries in which a culture of impunity reigns or has been historically entrenched.
Accountability is not simply assigning blame or accepting responsibility for one’s actions—it provides the specific function of vindicating and redressing the victims of past abuses, and crucially, of building trust for the future. A lack of accountability on the other hand can allow abuses to persist with impunity, as we have seen in countries such as Sri Lanka. A strong and sustained push for accountability by the international community can serve as a warning and example to other states critically in need of such procedures, including Sri Lanka.
Pasumai Thaayagam would like to reiterate the importance of international involvement in ensuring meaningful accountability – a necessary prerequisite for stability and sustainable peace.
Item 2: Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner
Pax Christi International welcomes the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his office and especially thanks civil society organisations in Sri Lanka who have contributed to his report on the implementation of the 30/1 resolution to be discussed by the Council. Although the resolution was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and despite the government’s assurances, we are concerned about the lack of implementation of the resolution by the government.
We would like to draw the attention of the Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to a number of worrisome issues:
§ A lack of truth-seeking and accountability as promised through transitional justice.
§ The task force, commissioned by the Prime Minister to seek the views of victims of violence, had their key recommendation—the involvement of an international judge in the hearing of all war crimes—immediately rejected.
§ The malfunctioning of the Office for Missing Persons.
§ Authorities still use the Prevention of Terrorism Act to detain individuals without charge, despite their pledge to the Human Rights Council.
§ The military’s land grab in the northeast continues with no willingness to return land.
§ Militarisation continues to help ‘sinhalisation’ and ‘buddhistisation’ with intimidation, surveillance and military interference in civic affairs.
Pax Christi International regrets that the agenda promising truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence has not been delivered for the Sri Lankan victims of human rights violations and other crimes under international law. In addition, the current human rights situation in Sri Lanka’s Tamil North and East has been deteriorating, also forming an obstacle to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
Pax Christi International therefore calls upon the Council to refer the case of Sri Lanka to the General Assembly and the Security Council to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments. Also, we call upon the Council to reject any delay from the Sri Lankan government so this unique chance for genuine reconciliation, peace and development is not lost. Furthermore, we ask the Council to support the establishment of a High Commissioner’s office in Sri Lanka to monitor and assist the human rights situation.
Thank you for your attention.