Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission made significant and far reaching
recommendations towards reconciliation and strengthening the rule of law in Sri
Lanka, despite its limitations. In order to define areas of possible advice and assistance by
the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the special
procedures pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 19/2, the present report examines
the recommendations of the Commission and the plans of the Government of Sri Lanka to
implement them, and to address alleged violations of international law. To date, the
Government has made commitments on only selected recommendations of the
Commission, and has not adequately engaged civil society in support of a more
consultative and inclusive reconciliation process. The Government has made significant
progress in rebuilding infrastructure; and while the majority of internally displaced persons
have been resettled, considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation and
resumption of livelihoods. The steps taken to investigate further allegations of serious
violations of human rights have also been inconclusive, and lack the independence and
impartiality required to inspire confidence. Meanwhile, continuing reports of extrajudicial
killings, abductions and enforced disappearance in the past year highlight the urgency of
action to combat impunity. It is against this background that possible areas of technical
assistance are identified, and recommendations are made.
Conclusion and recommendations
61. Achieving reconciliation following decades of violence and mistrust is challenging in any context, but is only possible through a genuine, consultative and inclusive process that addresses the grievances of all those affected by the conflict, in an environment where the rule of law and human rights for all are respected.
62. While the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission had some limitations, it nonetheless made significant and far-reaching recommendations for reconciliation and strengthening the rule of law. This was widely heralded by prominent community figures, religious leaders and civil society in Sri Lanka eager to join hands in a genuinely consultative and inclusive reconciliation process. The Government therefore has a unique opportunity to build upon the Commission’s work and findings to move towards a more all-encompassing and comprehensive policy on accountability and reconciliation. Unfortunately, however, the Government has made commitments to only some of the Commission’s recommendations, and has not adequately engaged
civil society to support this process. The steps taken by the Government to investigate allegations of serious violations of human rights further have also been inconclusive, and lack the independence and impartiality required to inspire confidence.
63. The High Commissioner recommends that the Government of Sri Lanka:
(a) Give positive consideration to the offers of assistance made in her letter dated 26 November 2012, in particular expertise in:
(i) The establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice;
(ii) Criminal and forensic investigations to review relevant case files and advise on additional lines of inquiry to resolve outstanding cases in accordance with international standards;
(iii) Drafting laws dealing with witness and victim protection, the right to information, the criminalization of enforced disappearances and the revision of existing laws to bring them into line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
(iv) Strengthening and ensuring the independence of national institutions;
(v) The development of a national reparations policy in line with international standards;
(b) Invite special procedures mandate holders with outstanding requests to make country visits, particularly those who have offered assistance pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 19/2;
(c) Hold public and inclusive consultations on the national plan of action for implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with a view to revising and expanding its scope and clarifying commitments and responsibilities;
(d) Revisit and implement the Commission’s recommendation on appointing a special commissioner of investigation into disappearances, and extend tracing programmes to include all missing persons;
(e) Open proceedings of military courts of inquiry and future trials of LTTE detainees to independent observers to increase public confidence, and allow proceedings to be evaluated in line with international standards;
(f) Publish the final report of the presidential commission of inquiry 2006 to allow the evidence gathered to be evaluated and accept international assistance to resolve outstanding cases;
(g) Take further steps in demilitarization and devolution to involve minority communities fully in decision-making processes;
(h) Engage civil society and minority community representatives in dialogue on appropriate forms of commemoration and memorialization that will advance inclusion and reconciliation.
64. The High Commissioner noted the views expressed by many stakeholders in Sri Lanka, including prominent community leaders, that the attention paid by the Human Rights Council to issues of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka had helped to create space for debate, and catalyzed positive steps forward, however limited at this stage. The High Commissioner encourages the Council to continue its engagement and build on this momentum. In this regard, she reaffirms her long-standing call for
an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, which could also monitor any domestic accountability process.