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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Questions Submitted to Sri Lanka by UN Human Rights Committee

[HRC meets in Geneva at the Palais Wilson]
After 11 years Sri Lanka comes before the UN Human Rights Committee on 7/8th of October to defend its HR record. The Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties. Human Rights Committee after examining the initial reports has prepared a list of issues that the GoSL needs to answer.the review will mostly based on the issues raised in the document.

The full list of issues can be viewed here and the responses of the GoSL can be viewed here.

The list of issues raised by the committee includes accountability for HR violation during the last phase of the war, 18th Amendment and its repercussions, Independence of Judiciary, Rehabilitation of LTTE combatants, gender equality, press freedom, killings of prisoners in Welikada and Vavuniya, detention and imprisonment of Sarath Fonseka, attacks on minorities etc.

The Committee meets in Geneva at the Palais Wilson, the office of the Human Rights High Commissioner. More than 10 NGOs has submitted counter reports to the GoSL report. Both the GoSL and NGOs will have the opportunity to present their case at the session. After the review the committee will pubish its report which will include ‘ concluding observations/recommendations’

Some of the questions raised in the list of Issues:

1. Please provide examples of the application of the Covenant by domestic courts and information on the availability of remedies for individuals claiming a violation of the rights contained in the Covenant.

2. Please respond to concerns raised by several United Nations human rights mechanisms about the eighteenth constitutional amendment, made in 2010, which eliminated the Constitutional Council and empowered the President to make direct appointments of the chairpersons and members of a number of key oversight bodies. Furthermore, please provide information on measures taken to strengthen the independence and the role of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in compliance with the Paris Principles and to ensure that its decisions and recommendations are fully implemented by State authorities.

3. What steps have been taken by the State party to respond to the concerns that released former combatants face discrimination and difficulties in finding jobs and in accessing other economic opportunities, and that female ex-combatants even face a higher risk of rape and violence? Please provide information about the implementation of the National Policy on Reintegration of Ex-Combatants into Civilian Life and other relevant policy documents.

5. Please indicate the measures taken to protect persons from stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and indicate whether they are protected by the constitutional provisions on non-discrimination (CCPR/C/LKA/5, para. 339).

6. Please respond to concerns that despite the adoption of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, and impunity for such violence, remains a widespread problem that is exacerbated by significant delays in the processing of cases and barriers to bringing perpetrators of marital rape to justice. Is the State party considering criminalizing marital rape regardless of judicial acknowledgement of separation?

7. Please provide information about cases of rape and other acts of sexual violence that occurred during and after the conflict, in particular in military-controlled camps.

8…. Please clarify whether all provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are compatible with the Covenant, including the legal safeguards, for persons suspected of or charged with a terrorist or related crime. Also, please elaborate on the measures taken to ensure a comprehensive review of all security-related legislation and on the outcomes of reviews of cases of suspects detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Please respond to reports that the remedy of habeas corpus in the State party is ineffective, mainly due to long delays in the disposal of complaints, a lack of cooperation from security agencies, and unwillingness by the judiciary to exercise its duty to protect the liberty of the individual.

9. Please respond to consistent and well-documented reports that unlawful use of force and violations of the right to life by State agents or by paramilitary groups directly under the control of the armed forces, including extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody and enforced disappearances, remain widespread and unpunished. Please indicate the measures taken to prevent such cases, to promptly and impartially investigate them, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators, and to provide adequate remedies to victims or their relatives. Please provide data on the number of deaths in detention, and their causes, and on the number of police and prison officials who have been disciplined or prosecuted for such cases, including the cases of deaths during the riots at Vavuniya prison and Weikada prison in 2012. Is the State party considering establishing enforced disappearance as an offence in domestic law?

10. Please provide an update on whether the State party is considering introducing legislation containing additional exceptions to the prohibition on abortion.

11. Please report on concrete measures taken to effectively address impunity for human rights violations committed by both State and non-State actors, in particular by ensuring independent and impartial investigations and applying the rule of law and due process in prosecuting perpetrators. What measures have been taken to ensure the right of victims of human rights violations to timely, prompt and effective remedies? Does the State party envisage accepting international assistance to resolve outstanding cases of serious human rights violations? How does the State party plan to strengthen the cooperation and coordination between different national and international authorities in investigating allegations of human rights violations during the conflict? Please provide an update on the progress made by the Sri Lankan Army’s Court of Inquiry in investigating allegations of civilian casualties, including the allegations reported upon by a Channel 4 documentary.

12. Please provide an update on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. Please elaborate on the measures taken to ensure the investigation of the allegations reported by the Panel, on the implementation of the measures recommended by the Panel, and on the prosecution of all cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a non-discriminatory manner.

13. Please provide an update on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Please clarify the State party’s position regarding a number of significant recommendations which were not incorporated in the 2012 National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission or in the 2011–2016 National Plan of Action for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights.

14. Please respond to allegations that torture and ill-treatment of detainees remain common and widespread, especially at the moment of apprehension and during pre-trial detention, in order to extract confessions, mainly due to legal and procedural shortcomings and the lack of political will on the part of the authorities.

15. Please describe the measures taken to address arbitrary and unlawful detention by public officials, and to ensure that those responsible for such cases are duly sanctioned and victims are adequately remedied. What steps have been taken (a) to guarantee, in practice, the rights of persons deprived of their liberty to notify their families about their detention, and to have access to a lawyer and a doctor starting from the moment of their arrest; and (b) to establish a central register of all persons in official custody and publish a list of all detainees and places of detention?

17. Please report on the measures taken to strengthen the independence of the judiciary from any outside interference and to ensure the implementation of court orders. Please respond to concerns about the impeachment of the Chief Justice following a series of attacks and acts of intimidation against judges and judicial officers.

18. Please indicate whether the State party is considering raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, currently set at 8 years, to an internationally acceptable level. Please report on the measures taken to strengthen the juvenile justice system and to ensure that detention of juveniles is used as a last resort.

22. In light of the State party’s efforts to resettle a large number of the persons who had been internally displaced as a result of the conflict. please indicate what further measures have been taken to ensure durable solutions on a comprehensive basis for all internally displaced persons and for those who have returned to their areas of origin, including the return of their land and property.

23. Please respond to reports of (a) intimidation and harassment, including physical attacks, death threats, and politically motivated charges, against journalists and human rights defenders, by State officials; and (b) the State party’s failure to bring perpetrators to justice. Please provide an update on the outcome of the investigation into the outstanding cases of attacks against human rights defenders and media personnel. Please describe the measures taken to protect individuals in the exercise of their freedom of expression and to prosecute the perpetrators of such attacks.

24. Please comment on restrictions imposed on the freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly of communities in the North. Please provide information on any measures through which the State party controls or monitors access to websites containing news and other political content.
Right to take part in the conduct of public affairs

25. Please respond to allegations that the legal proceedings against presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka were politically motivated. Also, please respond to concerns about the utilization of the 2011 Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets Act to seize the property of a prominent opposition politician.

26. Please indicate the measures taken to eliminate discrimination against ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, including Muslim and Tamil communities. Please provide information on (a) cases of schools refusing admission to Protestant children on the grounds of religion; and (b) efforts made to prevent and to punish offences against the free exercise of religion in line with the provisions of the Covenant. In particular, please indicate the outcome of the State party’s action regarding allegations of increasing pressure and harassment by the authorities against certain religious groups, including attacks on the places of worship of Hindu, Muslim, Evangelical Christian and Jehovah’s Witness communities.


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