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Sri Lanka report of UN Human Rights Committee: “Refrain from appointing alleged of human rights violators to high-level positions”

UN Human Rights Committee has made its concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Sri Lanka public.

Under the sub heading of Fight against impunity and past human rights violations it recommends  to Refrain from appointing or promoting alleged perpetrators of human rights violations to high-level positions in the government, the security sector and any other institutions established to achieve transitional justice and accountability;

We reproduce  some of the recommendation of the report below. The full report is attached at the end.

Principal matters of concern and recommendations

Constitutional and legal framework

(a) Expedite and finalize its constitutional reform process with a view to bringing its constitutional framework into full compliance with the Covenant and ensuring that the separation of powers and institutional checks and balances between the executive and oversight institutions, including the judiciary, entrusted with protecting human rights are fully respected and are not subject to arbitrary removal by future amendments;

(b) Safeguard, in law and in practice, the full independence and impartiality of members of the Constitutional Council, and other officials responsible for upholding the rule of law and human rights, including by ensuring that their appointments are in compliance with the Covenant and relevant international standards;

(c) Provide judicial review mechanisms for the constitutionality of both draft and enacted legislation

Fight against impunity and past human rights violations

(a) Promptly, independently and thoroughly investigate all cases of past human rights violations, prosecute and, if found guilty, punish perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences. In doing so, it should ensure that there is no undue interference in, and obstruction of, the judicial or investigative processes by politicians and military personnel;

(b) Provide victims of the past human rights violations or their relatives with full reparation, including adequate compensation, and other legal, medical, psychological and rehabilitation services, including through the Office for Reparations, and protect, in law and in practice, victims, their relatives and witnesses against threats, intimidation, harassment and reprisals, and ensure that victims and their families have adequate access to information about their rights and available remedies;

(c) Refrain from appointing or promoting alleged perpetrators of human rights violations to high-level positions in the government, the security sector and any other institutions established to achieve transitional justice and accountability;

(d) Establish a dedicated accountability mechanism that is fully independent, impartial and transparent to investigate alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and strengthen its cooperation with international bodies, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with a view to allowing victims to have adequate access to effective remedies and to achieving transitional justice and accountability.

(e) Ensure that all deaths in custody are promptly, independently and effectively investigated, that perpetrators are held accountable, with penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes, and that victims’ families are provided with full reparations.

(e) Judges, prosecutors, lawyers, security officers and law enforcement officials receive regular training in the field of human rights, including on the Manual
on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol).

Counter-terrorism measures

(a) Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with legislation that narrows the definition of terrorism and is compatible with the Covenant and the
principles of legal certainty, predictability and proportionality;

(b) Ensure that the legislative process for enacting a new anti-terrorism or national security law is inclusive and transparent and facilitates the free, open and meaningful participation of a wide range of stakeholders, including the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, civil society and the public;

(a) That all allegations of arbitrary arrests and detention, particularly of government critics, protestors, trade unionists and members of minority groups, are
promptly, effectively and independently investigated, that those responsible are brought to justice and that victims are provided with full reparations;

(b) All persons deprived of their liberty are afforded, in law and in practice, all the fundamental legal and procedural safeguards from the outset of their detention,
in particular, the rights to promptly contact a family member or any other person of their choice, to have prompt and confidential access to a qualified and independent
lawyer or, when needed, to free legal aid, in line with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, to have access to a medical examination by an independent doctor and to
be promptly brought before a competent, independent and impartial court within a maximum period of 48 hours;

(c) Pretrial detention is only used as an exceptional measure and for a limited period of time, that the use of alternative measures to pretrial detention, as provided
for in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules), is increased, and that the length of pretrial detention is properly taken
into account when a final sentence is determined.

Gender equality

(b) Achieve the full and equal participation of women in political and public life, including in executive, judicial and legislative bodies at the national and provincial
levels, particularly in decision-making positions, including by means of temporary special measures, such as the establishment of quotas;

(c) Protect female candidates and politicians from harassment, verbal attacks and violence, including by denouncing and sanctioning such acts;

(d) Eliminate gender stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, including through awareness-raising
campaigns, and encourage media outlets to portray women as active participants in public and political life.

Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

a) All cases of torture, ill-treatment and deaths in custody are promptly,independently and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are brought to justice and
adequately sanctioned and that victims receive full reparations;

(b) Complainants are protected against reprisals, that all cases of reprisal are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished;

(c) Confessions obtained through torture and ill-treatment, in violation of article 7 of the Covenant, are not accepted by courts under any circumstances and that the burden of proving that the confession was made voluntarily falls upon the prosecution;

(d) Equip interrogation rooms in police stations and other places of deprivation of liberty with audio and video recording devices and ensure the use of such devices to prevent torture and ill-treatment;

Liberty and security of person

(a) All allegations of arbitrary arrests and detention, particularly of government critics, protestors, trade unionists and members of minority groups, are promptly, effectively and independently investigated, that those responsible are brought to justice and that victims are provided with full reparations;

(b) All persons deprived of their liberty are afforded, in law and in practice, all the fundamental legal and procedural safeguards from the outset of their detention,
in particular, the rights to promptly contact a family member or any other person of their choice, to have prompt and confidential access to a qualified and independent
lawyer or, when needed, to free legal aid, in line with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, to have access to a medical examination by an independent doctor and to
be promptly brought before a competent, independent and impartial court within a maximum period of 48 hours;

(c) Pretrial detention is only used as an exceptional measure and for a limited period of time, that the use of alternative measures to pretrial detention, as provided
for in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules), is increased, and that the length of pretrial detention is properly taken
into account when a final sentence is determined.

(e) Judges, prosecutors, lawyers, security officers and law enforcement officials receive regular training in the field of human rights, including on the Manual
on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol).

Independence of the judiciary

(a) Ensure that the procedures for the selection, appointment, suspension, transfers, removal and disciplining of judges and prosecutors comply with the Covenant and relevant international standards, including the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, and ensure the entities responsible for such procedures, such as the Judicial Service Commission, are able to discharge their functions independently and impartially without political interference;

(b) Review and revise the current removal procedures against judges with a view to ensuring that removal is not utilized to retaliate against or exert undue pressure
on the judges.

Internally displaced persons

(a) Ensure that private land held by the military is fully returned to its legitimate civilian owners;

(b) Cease military land grabbing and land annexation, especially Tamil lands, with a view to preventing forced resettlement of the Tamil community, and provide full reparations to members of the affected community;

(c) Ensure that land disputes are impartially adjudicated with a view topreventing the continuation and escalation of ethno-religious tensions and conflicts;

(d) Reduce military operations and presence in the Northern and Easternprovinces with a view to minimizing their adverse impact on the livelihoods of internally displaced persons and returnees.

Read the full report: CCPR_C_LKA_CO_6_52074_E

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