Sunday, 23 September 2018 03:38

19.09.2018 - Questions of Accountability Need To Be Followed Through

The transitional justice process agreed upon by the government with the international community in October 2015 with the co-sponsoring of Resolution 30/1 of the UN Human Rights Council continues to be a highly contested one within Sri Lanka. The government is showing sharp internal divisions on the issue of accountability for past human rights violations that the UNHRC resolution requires. There is danger of a regression that will once again bring Sri Lanka into conflict with the international community.

President Maithripala Sirisena has said that he will go before the UN General Asssembly to urge in an amicable manner that the resolution on Sri Lanka co-sponsored by the government should be amended as it had led to the perception that the Sri Lankan security forces were being unfairly targeted for punitive action. He has said he will submit these proposals to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as well as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The President said that the proposals aim at solving issues and providing relief without causing harm to the pride of the security forces or endangering Lanka's independence.

President Sirisena will be addressing the UN General Assembly on September 25. The National Peace Council notes that UN institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council have their own mandates and autonomy. The UN Human Rights Council, which co-sponsored UNHRC Resolution 30/1 is not under the direct control of the UN General Assembly. This explains why even the United States, though arguably the most powerful country in the world, was unable to influence the UNHRC and has withdrawn from that institution while denouncing it. It is not reasonable to believe that the international community, especially those whose mandate is to protect human rights, will be prepared to negotiate down the need for accountability as measured by international standards.

We are gratified that last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the National Peace Council supported a consultation of civil society at which the draft country report on Sri Lanka’s adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was discussed in detail. This exercise was done in a spirit of partnership and yet with critical thinking. We urge that more leaders within the government show conviction that the course of transitional justice needs to be followed for Sri Lanka’s transition to a reconciled society. We also call on the government leadership to have the courage of their convictions and not yield the public space to those who are seeking mass popularity at the expense of the country’s longer term future.