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Monday, April 15, 2024

The Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka : OHCHR report on the civil and political rights

Image:  the military presence in the North and East regions remained heavy and a culture of surveillance and intimidation and harassment in certain instances persisted, says the report.

B. Civil and political rights

1. Right to life, liberty and security of person

16. The Special Rapporteur on torture recommended that capital punishment be abolished or, as a minimum, all death sentences be commuted to prison sentences.

17. He noted that torture and ill-treatment, including of a sexual nature, still occurred, in particular in the early stages of arrest and interrogation, often for the purpose of eliciting confessions, and that the gravity of the mistreatment inflicted increased for those who were perceived to be involved in terrorism or offences against national security. The police resorted to forceful extraction of information or coerced confessions rather than carrying out thorough investigations using scientific methods.

18. The Committee against Torture remained seriously concerned that torture was a common practice carried out in relation to regular criminal investigations in a large majority of cases by the Criminal Investigation Department of the police, regardless of the nature of the suspected offence.

19. The Committee noted with concern that the practice of so-called “white van” abductions of Tamils had continued in the years following the end of the armed conflict. It also noted that people suspected of having even a remote link with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had been abducted and subjected to brutal torture, including sexual violence and rape of men and women by the military and the police in unacknowledged places of detention. It urged Sri Lanka to ensure that all allegations of unlawful detention, torture and sexual violence by security forces were promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent body, and to close down any unofficial detention centres and ensure that no one was detained therein

20. The Committee urged Sri Lanka to immediately embark upon an institutional reform of the security sector and develop a vetting process to remove from office military and security force personnel at the higher and lower ranks, as well as any other public officials, where there were reasonable grounds to believe that they had been involved in human rights violations.

21. The Special Rapporteur on torture noted that conditions of detention amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment owing to severe overcrowding, insufficient ventilation, excessive heat and humidity, and the denial of adequate access to health care, education, vocational training and recreational activities.The Committee against Torture A/HRC/WG.6/28/LKA/2 4 urged Sri Lanka to reduce overcrowding in prisons by making more use of alternatives to incarceration. It recommended that Sri Lanka improve detention conditions, strengthen reintegration and rehabilitation activities, improve medical facilities in prisons and ensure the swift transfer of patients to the national hospital in cases of emergencies and serious illnesses.

22. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances recommended that the Government take decisive action and give clear orders at the highest level to stop surveillance, threats, intimidation, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuses against relatives of disappeared persons and those acting on their behalf.

23. The Human Rights Committee was concerned at reports of intimidation and harassment, including physical attacks, death threats, administrative detention and politically motivated charges, by State officials against journalists, lawyers, clergymen, members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), human rights defenders and opposition politicians. It recommended that Sri Lanka refrain from taking any measures amounting to intimidation or harassment against persons exercising their right to freedom of expression, investigate all cases of threats and attacks against journalists, lawyers, clergymen, political activists, members of NGOs and human rights defenders, hold the perpetrators accountable and provide effective remedies to victims.  The Committee against Torture had similar concerns and made similar recommendations.

24. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination emphasized that women were particularly vulnerable to certain forms of racial discrimination, such as sexual violence during armed conflict. It recommended that Sri Lanka ensure the protection of women in the post-conflict period, ensure that any victims of violations had access to complaint mechanisms and judicial remedies and that reported cases were investigated and suspected perpetrators prosecuted.

25. The Human Rights Committee was concerned about allegations of sexual violence against women in the context of detention, resettlement and other situations that required contact with security forces. It recommended that Sri Lanka thoroughly investigate allegations of sexual violence by the security forces and ensure that perpetrators were prosecuted and punished, and that victims were adequately compensated.

26. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was alarmed by reports of hate speech, incitement to violence and violent attacks, including riots, against ethnic and ethno-religious minority groups, which had resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property. It recommended that Sri Lanka protect the safety and security of ethnic and ethno-religious minorities and their places of worship and adopt comprehensive legislation on hate speech that prohibited ideas based on racial superiority and hatred, incitement to racial hatred, acts of violence against any race or groups of persons of another colour or ethnic origin, and incitement to such acts.

27. The United Nations country team noted that despite the welcomed steps taken towards demilitarization, such as the removal of checkpoints, the military presence in the North and East regions remained heavy and a culture of surveillance and intimidation and harassment in certain instances persisted.




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