On October 1 the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a resolution on Sri Lanka titled Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The resolution was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and passed unanimously which was in contrast to the four previous resolutions of the UNHRC on Sri Lanka since 2009.
The focus of the resolution is on taking forward the accountability process with regard to human rights violations during the course of the war. Accordingly it will be necessary for the government to initiate the process of accountability without delay. The government needs to set up the envisaged judicial mechanism which will hold formal trials into complaints of human rights violations with international participation.
The co-sponsored resolution also calls on the international community to assist the Sri Lankan government in furthering its efforts in rebuilding infrastructure and resettling internally displaced persons. The National Peace Council notes that the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, has also welcomed the co-sponsored resolution. These are positive indications of the evolution of a spirit of partnership and joint problem-solving at the highest levels of national and international decision making that is necessary for promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. This goodwill needs to be seen in practical terms at the ground level too in which people become the direct and immediate beneficiaries.
The release of lands held as high security zones back to their owners, and the release of prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act without charge for many years are priority requirements in this regard. As recommended in the co-sponsored resolution government should take steps to review the Public Security Ordinance Act and review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in line with contemporary international best practices. It should also release the prisoners who are kept without trial in prison for a long period. The release of a woman who was held in prison for 15 years without charge, and who suffered torture, illustrates the urgency of the need for action on the ground, and for compensation and reparation.
Our observations from the ground, and among our partners at the community level, are that the majority of people are not aware of the significance of the resolution or the content of its recommendations. This makes the reconciliation process vulnerable to propaganda of opponents of the reconciliation process on both sides.
NPC therefore calls on the government and the international community that co-sponsored the Geneva resolution to take steps to facilitate public education on it from the bottom up and develop a plan of action. In this regard we welcome the initiative taken by Hon. Mano Ganesan, Minister of National Dialogue to have an “Open Dialogue with Civil Organizations on the way forward of the Ministry of National Dialogue”.
– Statement issued by the National Peace Council