The Sri Lankan Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, announced on Thursday the Cabinet of Ministers has adopted the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. The five-year plan fulfills Sri Lanka’s pledge [BBC report] made in 2008 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [official website; UNHRC backgrounder].
According to Samarasinghe, the plan will be implemented by stakeholder ministries [Daily News report] and takes effect immediately [PTI report]. The plan addresses eight areas [Daily Mirror report]: civil and political rights, economic, social, and cultural rights, children’s rights, labor and migrant worker rights, and the prevention of torture. The plan will be submitted to UN High Commissioner for Human rights Navi Pillay [official profile].
Sri Lanka has come under international criticism for allegations of human rights violations. Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] sent a report [JURIST report] to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians during clashes with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in 2009. In April, a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country’s war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In December, the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs [official website] announced that the UN panel would be allowed to visit [JURIST report] the island to look into alleged war crimes.
The decision signaled a reversal after months of strong opposition [JURIST report] from the Sri Lankan government, which described the UN panel as an infringement of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] appointed his own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to investigate the final years of the conflict from the ceasefire in 2002 to its conclusion in 2009. Despite having its credibility contested by several human rights organizations, the LLRC began public hearings [JURIST report] in August 2010 with an appearance by Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa [official profile], who defended the actions of the government [JURIST report] during the conflict. The government has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces violated international law during the conflict.