Image:© sunanda deshapriya සුනන්ද දේශප්රිය.
In a paper presented the member states of the UNHTC, Geneva Amnesty International has urged the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC), when it meets for its 46th session (22 February – 19 March 2021), to establish an international accountability mechanism to continue to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and to collect, preserve and assess evidence of gross human rights violations.
It says such a mechanism is critical in the face of the continued deterioration of the human rights situation on the ground, including increased attacks on human rights organizations, media, and members of the Muslim community; backsliding on the limited progress made on the implementation of HRC resolution 30/1, including on accountability; and Sri Lanka’s announcement they are disengaging from the 30/1 process altogether.
The paper present by the AI lists ongoing human rights violations as well as the lack of accountability for the past human rights violations.
The paper, Ai SA3735412021ENGLISH further says that:
“In this context, the HRC has a critical role to play – both in sending a clear message to victims and perpetrators alike that the international community remains committed to human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka; and by putting in place a mechanism or process to support medium- to long-term accountability efforts, in line with the current and former High Commissioners’ clear and consistent concerns and recommendations in that regard.
“The report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka made clear that the HRC should “continue tomonitor human rights developments and progress towards accountability and reconciliation,” and that“if insufficient progress is made, the [HRC] should consider further international action to ensure accountability for international crimes.”37 As detailed above, five years later, not only has insufficient progress been made, but the new government is rolling back on previous gains and has made clear its commitment to impunity for serious crimes.
“In this context, on the basis of the clear findings of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka report and subsequent updates and reports by the OHCHR, the HRC must launch a new process or mechanism to pursue the objectives of resolution 30/1: to end the cycle of impunity and advance accountability for international crimes with a view to deterring future violations, particularly against minority communities and civil society groups. Central to the new approach must be continued monitoring and reporting on the situation, as well as the collection, analysis, and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions. The empty promises of national-level accountability processes should – on the basis of experience and clear analysis by the High Commissioner (see above) – not be considered an alternative to an international approach. Nor should Sri Lanka’s brazen rejection of a consensus-based international framework for pursuing human rights and accountability, and refusal to cooperate in this regard, be rewarded by the HRC taking a step back. Rather, the HRC should strengthen its resolve.
“We urge all States at the HRC to encourage and support the robust approach necessary. To do otherwise would be to send a very dangerous message to perpetrators everywhere that even a state accused of the most grave crimes under international law can escape meaningful scrutiny by the HRC and benefit from rewards by merely refusing to cooperate with a carefully negotiated process. States should stand on the side of victims, their families, and all those pursuing justice and the protection of human rights on the ground, often at great personal risk, by putting in place a mechanism that can monitor and report on the situation, and collect and preserve evidence for future prosecutions.”