Response to the Statement Made by Minister Mahinda Samarasinge
22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Civil Society Collective/ 28 February 2013
This document is prepared in response to the statement made by Minister Samarasinghe on 27 February 2013 at the High Level Segment of the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). A similar document was prepared in response to the statement made by the same Minister at the 19th Session of the UNHRC in 2012, based on the ground realities in Sri Lanka.
An examination of the statements made by the Minister at the UNHRC in 2012 and 2013 and pledges by other Government officials attest to the fact of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) continuously making the same promises and pledges without any substantive progress made on the ground and further delaying any action that can be taken.
The statement at the 22nd Session by the Minister, while listing progress and plans, fails to address substantive issues such as the devolution of power and power sharing despite the GoSL’s two-thirds majority in Parliament. More than 45months after the end of the war, there are still no credible answers provided to the issues raised such as why the Government is unwilling to share a list of all detainees. The statement also fails to recognise ongoing violations in Sri Lanka including disappearances, religious violence and threats to human rights defenders, lawyers and media activists.
This raises the question whether such statements are mere tokenism and yet another effort by the GoSL to keep international pressure at bay. These are important aspects to consider in light of the Resolution adopted at the 19th Session calling for specific action including requesting the GoSL to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). While a year has passed, there has been no demonstrable progress made to achieve accountability, reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka.
A point made in response to the Minster’s statement at the 19th Session and reiterated in this document is that many of the promises, pledges and plans by the GoSL are for the consumption of the international community and there is little genuine interest to follow through in Sri Lanka.
While recognizing that some positive measures have been taken by the Government towards strengthening peace and human rights since the end of the war in May 2009, this document highlights areas of contention and counters some of the points made by the Minister in his speech. The table below contains two columns- one with highlights from the statements made by the Minister and the opposing column directly rebutting the specific claim and at times containing questions that should be posed by different actors to the Government of Sri Lanka.
This document is drafted by civil society based on its own reports and documentation, public interest litigation, news reports and other documentation. It is also drafted at a time when civil society and others who are critical of the Government have come under intense threats, Consequently the names of those who drafted this document have been withheld.
Read the full statement here