Sri Lanka Brief
NewsSri Lanka: UN Special Rapporteur On Minority Issues On BBS, Sexual Violence And Lessons Learned

Sri Lanka: UN Special Rapporteur On Minority Issues On BBS, Sexual Violence And Lessons Learned

by

[Rita Izsák,UN photo]

In her annual report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák has spoken on  systematic sexual and other violence women has faced during the conflict in Sri Lanka, promotion of extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists by the BBS and Lessons learned from UN failures in Sri Lanka.

Direct quotes from the report follows:

In conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Sudan, minority women have suffered. Violence against minority women does not always take place in the context of conflict. Women affected by caste-based discrimination in several countries experience high levels of violence owing to their low caste status and gender, and face killing, rape, gang rape and custodial torture. (38)

On 2 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, along with other United Nations experts, called on Sri Lanka to adopt urgent measures to stop the racial and faith-based hatred and violence directed at Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views, and to bring perpetrators to justice. A group known as Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), along with other groups, is promoting extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists and spreading fear among the population by, for example, alleging that statues of Buddha are being bulldozed by religious minorities or that evangelical Christians are forcibly converting vulnerable people. These statements have fuelled tensions and contributed to more than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians in the past two years. (27)

International actors can confront significant challenges in retaining the essential support of a Government in delivering assistance while also responding to serious rights violations. In Sri Lanka, the United Nations development and humanitarian branches were unable to fully address the United Nations political and human rights priorities. Failures identified included a United Nations system that lacked an adequate and shared sense of responsibility for human rights violations;an incoherent internal United Nations crisis-management structure which failed to conceive and executer a coherent strategy in response to early warnings and subsequent human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians; the ineffective dispersal of United Nations Headquarters structures to coordinate United Nations action and to address international human rights and humanitarian law violations across several different United Nations Headquarters entities in Geneva and New York; a model for United Nations action in the field that was designed for a development rather than a conflict response; and inadequate political support from Member States as a whole.(84)

The Sri Lanka experience contributed to the development of the Secretary -General’s “Rights up front” initiative which seeks to ensure better organizational preparedness to meet the challenges of safeguarding human rights and protecting civilians in complex crises. (85)

24 page long report of the Rita Izsák emphasis that ‘the responsibility of Governments for the protection of human rights and prevention of violence extends to regulating the activities of non-State actors…’ (39)

Speaking on the deficits of democracy, good governance and rule of law she says that ‘while violence can occur in any country, those in which there is a functioning democracy, good governance and the rule of law are less likely to experience violence against specific communities. However, where democracy, rule of law and governance deficits are coupled with competition over territory, Sri Lanka: UN Special Rapporteur On Minority Issues On BBS, Sexual Violence And Lessons Learned

In her annual report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák has spoken systematic sexual and other violence women has faced during the conflict in Sri Lanka, promotion of extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists by the BBS and Lessons learned from UN failures in Sri Lanka.

Direct quotes from the report follows:

In conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Sudan, minority women have suffered. Violence against minority women does not always take place in the context of conflict. Women affected by caste-based discrimination in several countries experience high levels of violence owing to their low caste status and gender, and face killing, rape, gang rape and custodial torture. (38)

On 2 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, along with other United Nations experts, called on Sri Lanka to adopt urgent measures to stop the racial and faith-based hatred and violence directed at Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views, and to bring perpetrators to justice. A group known as Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), along with other groups, is promoting extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists and spreading fear among the population by, for example, alleging that statues of Buddha are being bulldozed by religious minorities or that evangelical Christians are forcibly converting vulnerable people. These statements have fuelled tensions and contributed to more than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians in the past two years. (27)

International actors can confront significant challenges in retaining the essential support of a Government in delivering assistance while also responding to serious rights violations. In Sri Lanka, the United Nations development and humanitarian branches were unable to fully address the United Nations political and human rights priorities. Failures identified included a United Nations system that lacked an adequate and shared sense of responsibility for human rights violations;

an incoherent internal United Nations crisis-management structure which failed to conceive and executer a coherent strategy in response to early warnings and subsequent human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians; the ineffective dispersal of United Nations Headquarters structures to coordinate United Nations action and to address international human rights and humanitarian law violations across several different United Nations Headquarters entities in Geneva and New York; a model for United Nations action in the field that was designed for a development rather than a conflict response; and inadequate political support from Member States as a whole.(84)

The Sri Lanka experience contributed to the development of the Secretary -General’s “Rights up front” initiative which seeks to ensure better organizational preparedness to meet the challenges of safeguarding human rights and protecting civilians in complex crises. (85)

24 page long report of the Rita Izsák emphasis the ‘the responsibility of Governments for the protection of human rights and prevention of violence extends to regulating the activities of non-State actors…’ (39)

Speaking on the deficits of democracy, good governance and rule of law report says that ‘while violence can occur in any country, those in which there is a functioning democracy, good governance and the rule of law are less likely to experience violence against specific communities. However, where democracy, rule of law and governance deficits are coupled with competition over territory, resources and power, where bias politics and favouritism along ethnic or religious lines appear, and where minority rights are denied, violated or neglected, tensions between communities can evolve, threatening peace and stability and sometimes resulting in violence. Strong institutions and independent, efficient law enforcement and judicial bodies, as well as independent national human rights institutions, can act against corruption and exclusion before misuse of power starts to fuel community tensions. (19)

 On the media role in racial violence the report says that ‘the media can have an important role in fuelling and inciting violenceMonitoring of media, conducted by independent media regulatory bodies preferably involving minorities, is important to violence prevention strategies. Such bodies can analyse, in the light of international human rights law relating to freedom of expression and prohibition of hate speech, elements and trends present in the media, including online media, which could constitute incitement to violence by means of hate speech. Media monitoring entities should be able to report their findings to relevant authorities in order to prompt an investigation and the initiation of criminal procedures against perpetrators, as appropriate. (25)

Report stresses the importance of role on civil society as well: ‘Civil society has a vital role to play in detecting the early signs of impending violence, alerting national and international bodies and taking local initiatives to counter it. Violence prevention efforts should not be left only to non-governmental organizations, however. Effective prevention benefits greatly from the full participation of diverse actors, including non-governmental organizations, human rights institutions, businesses, faith groups and community leaders, educational institutions and other stakeholders. Preparing the infrastructure for and promoting a culture of violence prevention necessarily involves many actors with different skills, powers and relationships.’ (74)

The full report

Back to Top