[JURIST] Sri Lanka's new government must prioritize human rights [press release], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Friday. AI issued its press release in the midst of a change in leadership in the Sri Lankan administration. AI is concerned that the outgoing Sri Lankan administration, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website], left "pressing issues" involving human rights violations for what will soon be the new administration led by Maithripala Sirisena [official website]. AI has asked the new administration to prioritize seven specific human rights issues, including: the repeal of the 18th amendment of the Constitution [text], which AI believes "undermines judicial independence and other human rights safeguards"; the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which AI asserts grants authorities unwarranted power to violate human rights; protection of freedom of expression; a halt to the "repressive environment for journalists and human rights defenders"; and an end to discrimination against members of religious minorities. David Griffiths, AI's Deputy Asia Pacific Director, issued a statement regarding the requests:
Repealing the 18th constitutional amendment must be top of the new government's to-do list, and it is encouraging that Maithripala Sirisena has committed to this as part of his campaign. The amendment essentially placed the judiciary and other key bodies in the hands of the president and removed key human rights safeguards.Griffiths added that the Sri Lankan government has historically resisted international efforts to investigate human rights in the country, and that the new administration should allow the UN to investigate.
The UN conducted an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka during decades of conflict, and is to present its findings at the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in March. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein [official profile] criticized [JURIST report] the Sri Lankan government for its continued attacks on the integrity of the current investigation into its alleged serious human rights violations. In April Sri Lanka's foreign minister announced [JURIST report] that Sri Lanka would not cooperate with the UN investigation of alleged war crimes resulting from the country's civil war. In June the former UN high commissioner for human rights made public her great alarm [JURIST report] of the inter-communal violence happening in Sri Lanka, which followed a long history of violent crimes in the country.