Image: Lawyer and activist Nuwan Bopage speaking at the 51st session of the UNHRC.
Speaking at 51st session of the ongoing UNHRC Nuwan Bopage called for a “resolution that enhances scrutiny of the situation and advances accountability for war time atrocities and economic crimes that are at the root of the current crisis as well as the Easter attacks by strengthening existing measures to collect and preserve evidence and adopting new initiatives such as an expert mechanism on Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture. As the High Commissioner’s report makes clear, the current, unprecedented economic crisis is due in part to long standing problems.
Systematic subversion of key accountability processes, the rule of law and independent human rights institutions, including through the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, as part of the government’s deliberate attempts to avoid accountability for war time atrocities created conditions for corruption, abuse of power and prolonged mismanagement of the economy that are at the root of the current crisis.
At the same time, disproportionate military spending amid mounting debts left little for essential goods and services including food, energy, health and education.
The government’s violent response to popular protests in the wake of the economic crisis leaves no room for any optimism about the prospects of meaningful human rights and democratic reforms and accountability under the administration of President Wikremesinghe.
Many peaceful protestors including artists and social activists have been arrested since the new president assumed office. The Wikremesinghe administration has arbitrarily detained several people including Wasanth Mudalige, Hashan Jeewantha and Galwewa Siridhamma Thero, for their alleged involvement in the recent protests under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), contradicting the de facto moratorium on the use the PTA announced by the government at the 50th session of this Council.
Meanwhile families of victims of enforced disappearances have faced routine harassment and intimidation as they continue their over 2000 days long demonstration demanding to know the fate of their loved ones.
In this context, it is imperative that the Council adopts a resolution that enhances scrutiny of the situation and advances accountability for war time atrocities and economic crimes that are at the root of the current crisis as well as the Easter attacks by strengthening existing measures to collect and preserve evidence and adopting new initiatives such as an expert mechanism on Sri Lanka.
Delivered by Nuwan Sanjeewa Bopege on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) / 12 September 2022