UPR Sri Lanka: Compilation prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
The present report is a compilation of the information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and in other relevant official United Nations documents. It is presented in a summarized manner due to word-limit constraints. The report has been prepared taking into consideration the periodicity of the review and developments during that period.
Ratifying UN Treaties
1. Treaty bodies invited Sri Lanka to consider ratifying CPED, CRPD, OP-CRPD, OP-ICESCR, OP-CAT, the Rome Statute, the four main refugee and stateless persons conventions the Palermo Protocol, and ILO Convention No. 169. In 2012, the Special Rapporteur on torture also called upon the Government to take measures to ratify OP-CAT and establish a National Preventive Mechanism.
2. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), in 2010, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, in 2012, expressed concern at the 18th Constitutional Amendment of 2010, which eliminated the Constitutional Council and empowered the President to make direct appointments of members to key Commissions, such as the National Police Commissioner and the Chairperson and members of the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL), Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, members of the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman). CESCR called upon Sri Lanka to take all necessary measures to ensure the independence and integrity of the judiciary and oversight bodies.
Discrimination against Women
3. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) urged Sri Lanka to fully incorporate the Convention into its domestic legal system. CESCR, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) also urged Sri Lanka to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with their respective treaties.
4. The Committee against Torture (CAT) recommended that all necessary measures be taken to ensure that enforced disappearance is established as an offence in Sri Lankan law.
Right to Information
5. CESCR urged Sri Lanka to speed up the process of adoption of a right to information act.
6.Two treaty bodies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Coordinating Committee’s (ICC) Sub-Committee on Accreditation referred to concerns about the lack of independence of HRCSL.
Status of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (SLHRC) B (2007) B (2009)
7. CAT expressed concern about the appointment procedure of HRCSL commissioners. CAT recommended that the Government establish a transparent and consultative selection process and ensure that HRCSL is able to carry out independent investigations into possible cases of torture, including in military premises and government-controlled facilities, and publish the results.
2009 HRC resolution
9. The 11th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka was held on 26 and 27 May 2009. In its decision S-11/1, adopted by a recorded vote, the Council welcomed the visit to Sri Lanka of the Secretary-General at the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka, and endorsed the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the visit and the understandings contained therein.
Attacks on HRDs
10. In 2012, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders was especially concerned at alleged smear campaigns that may have been related to the cooperation of human rights defenders with the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Secretary-General reported on related concerns expressed in 2010.
2012 HRC resolution
11. On 22 March 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 19/2, on “Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”, by a recorded vote. The resolution calls on the Government of Sri Lanka, inter alia, to implement the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The Government was requested to present a comprehensive action plan detailing the steps to implement the recommendations made in the Commission’s report and address alleged violations of international law.
13. In 2012, the Working Group on Disappearances noted that since its establishment, it had transmitted 12,460 cases to the Government. Of these 6,535 cases have been clarified on the basis of information provided by the Government; 5,671 remained outstanding.
24. Despite Sri Lanka’s public commitment to a zero tolerance policy on torture as a matter of policy and practice, CAT remained seriously concerned at the continued and consistent allegations of the widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of suspects in police custody. CAT called on Sri Lanka to take immediate and effective measures to investigate all acts of torture and ill-treatment and prosecute and punish those responsible.
32. Noting the voluntary commitments made in the UPR, CAT recommended that Sri Lanka, inter alia, consider adopting the draft bill on witness and victim protection and improve the capacity of police to carry out investigations, with additional training in interrogation and prosecution. Regarding witness and victim protection, UNCT reported that a draft bill, which did not meet international standards, had existed since 2007. No action had been taken to adopt the draft bill or introduce new legislation.
Corruption and Impunity
37. CESCR expressed concern that Sri Lanka has not yet taken firm and effective measures to combat corruption and impunity.
Right to peaceful assembly in North
41. According to UNCT, communities in the North were not being allowed the right to peacefully assemble without oversight and/or direct participation by the military.
Bill on the rights of IDPs
56. In 2008, the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons recommended that the Government develop a comprehensive policy addressing all aspects of internal displacement, in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. UNCT noted that the Government committed in the 2008 UPR to complete the process of drafting a bill on the rights of IDPs in consultation with stakeholders, but no bill had been presented to Parliament. Implementation of a joint Government-UN verification initiative for “protracted IDPs” had been slowed by Government inaction.
Military control over I/NGOs
57. CRC made recommendations to address its deep concern about orders issued in June 2010 from the Ministry of Defence to all commanders of the Security Forces to curtail humanitarian access to virtually all United Nations agencies, international organizations and NGOs. UNCT reported that while restrictions for humanitarian workers on movement to and within the Northern Province were lifted in July 2011, tight control by the Government continued to be exercised on all activities implemented in the region.
High Security Zones
58. UNCT explained that IDPs and IDP returnees continued to face numerous housing, land and property challenges including competing claims, unclear boundaries and lost documentation, exacerbated by the absence of a comprehensive government land policy as well as suboptimal Government capacity to effectively address these issues. The existence of gazetted and non-gazetted high security zones (HSZs) and other areas and sites occupied by the military continued to be a primary reason for protracted displacement including being stranded in transit sites. The process of releasing those zones was slow and there was no uniform or transparent policy of compensation or redress for those owning land in the zones.
59. UNCT reported that three years after the end of the war there continued to be a significant military presence in the region which constrained the full resumption of civilian administration. The military had increasingly engaged in commercial activities, which adversely affected livelihood recovery for returnees and their right to development.
Continuation of Emergency Rule
62 While noting Sri Lanka’s decision to lift the long-standing state of emergency on 31 August 2011, CAT expressed concern that 24 hours before it ended new regulations were decreed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act No. 48 of 1979 (PTA). It was concerned at the sweeping nature of these PTA regulations, which unduly restricted legal safeguards for persons suspected or charged with a terrorist or related crime, as pointed out by the HR Committee and the Special Rapporteur on torture. CAT also noted that the President continued to invoke Section 12 of the Public Security Ordinance to allow the armed forces to retain policing powers in all 25 districts. The High Commissioner strongly urged a comprehensive review of all security-related legislation and detentions. Related concerns were raised by CESCR, CRC the Special Rapporteur on torture and UNCT.
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(Subheadings from SLB)