The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
The resolution, which was drafted in response to a damning UN report released in January, stresses the importance of an accountability process for parties who engage in violence and human rights abuses, naming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as an example of one such party. It also goes on to express concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, citing as evidence the erosion of the independence of its judiciary, policies against the right to freedom of religion, marginalization of persons belonging to the Tamil and Muslim communities, surveillance of society, restrictions on media freedom, arbitrary detentions, alleged torture, and sexual and gender-based violence.
The resolution calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to ensure the investigation and prosecution of crimes relating to human rights and international humanitarian law violations. The resolution also calls upon the government to ensure the effective functioning of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations.
The resolution further calls upon the government to “protect civil society actors, including human rights defenders, to investigate any attacks and to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance, surveillance, insecurity and threat of reprisals.”
The resolution has been welcomed by international rights groups. Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN in Geneva, said the resolution is “a significant move by the Human Rights Council, which signals a shift in approach by the international community.” She added, “Years of support and encouragement to Sri Lanka to pursue justice at the national level achieved nothing. This resolution should send a clear message to perpetrators of past and current crimes that they cannot continue to act with impunity.”