SRI LANKA: UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW PLEDGES MUST BE FULLY IMPLEMENTED
, Index number: ASA 37/7630/2017
Eight years after the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, the island nation’s human rights record was scrutinized again at the recently held Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland on 15th November 2017.
Sri Lanka operationalizes its promise to ratify the OP-CAT
One of the key pledges that Sri Lanka made was to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) – a move that it followed through with on 5 December.
The protocol will come into force in Sri Lanka on 4th January 2018. Amnesty International welcomes the accession but urges the Government to equally prioritize implementing its provisions domestically and end impunity for torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International urges the government in this light to establish at the earliest possible time, the national preventive mechanism (NPM) according to its obligations under OP-CAT.
In 2016, Amnesty International called on the government to guarantee victims of torture and other illtreatment effective reparations, including restitution, compensation, satisfaction and guarantees of nonrepetition1. With the accession to OP-CAT, the domestic implementation of obligations under the protocol can decisively provide a Sri Lanka with a clear and coordinated pathway to end impunity for torture and other ill-treatment.
The hallmarks of the NPM should be its functional and operational independence, adequate funding free from political restrictions, and independent, capable, gender balanced and representative members. In addition, the government must guarantee the widest possible definition of detainees and places of detention and full, unhindered access thereto. The NPM must have unhindered access to information and the public and victims should be guaranteed unhindered access to the NPM. The government must guarantee direct, unhindered and untapped communications between the NPM and the Sub-Committee, and finally, assure functionally and operationally that the NPMs recommendations will be taken seriously.
Amnesty International reminds the Government of its pledge before the UPR to designate the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) as the national preventive mechanism to prevent and monitor implementation of obligations under OP-CAT is welcome.
In this light, Amnesty International calls on Sri Lanka to ensure the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is equipped with sufficient staff, independent funding and other resources, to carry out all of its functions effectively.
Sri Lanka still ambivalent on definitive timeline to guarantee truth, justice and guarantees of nonrecurrence.
Despite Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the UNHRC Resolution No. 30/1 in September 2015, progress in fulfilling commitments therein has slowed to a glacial pace. Delays have affected key issues include guaranteeing truth and accountability on the issues of enforced disappearances – sparking months-long protests by families of the disappeared in the north and east of the country. Sri Lanka has pledged before the UPR in November that it will formulate a comprehensive reparations policy2, and fulfill commitments contained
in United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1. The Government has further specified its commitments under the Resolution and said that it would fulfill its commitment towards ‘operationalizing the Office on Missing Persons’, the ‘establishment of a truth seeking commission, an office for reparations, and a judicial mechanism with a special counsel’3.
While Sri Lanka’s voluntary pledges at the UPR are welcome, the state must meet its human rights obligations and effectively implement measures on truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of nonrecurrence, as it had promised to do more than two years ago.
Amnesty International reiterates its call made in May 2017 on the government to announce a clear and coordinated roadmap on its commitments on truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence4.
Amnesty International called for independent and impartial international investigations into these allegations in its 2016 report ‘Making the Rights Choices’5, in the context of previous failures by the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate, acknowledge and prosecute alleged war crimes and other crimes committed in the island nation. In this instance, Amnesty International further calls on Sri Lanka to establish a “Special Counsel” to carry out prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations of all crimes including enforced disappearances and to hold the suspected perpetrators accountable through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty…