DEEPAK Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, on Thursday said in a statement: “Canada welcomes the adoption today of a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council that reiterates the need for the Government of Sri Lanka to address outstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability and serious human rights violations and abuses.
“I welcome the Council’s call for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes committed by both parties in Sri Lanka from 2002 to 2009.
“Canada urges Sri Lanka to maintain its collaboration with the Council and to engage constructively with the follow-up to and implementation of the recommendations contained in the resolution to lay the groundwork for sustainable peace, prosperity and security for all Sri Lankans.”
The resolution – led by the United States, with Montenegro, Mauritius, Macedonia and the United Kingdom, and with a total of 41 co-sponsors, including Canada – acknowledges the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining and resettling the majority of internally displaced persons. At the same time, it notes that considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation, land use and ownership, and the resumption of livelihoods.
Domestic investigative mechanisms since the end of the conflict in 2009 have regrettably not demonstrated their independence and effectiveness, nor satisfied resounding calls for truth and justice. The resolution therefore requests that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
The Human Rights Council approved Thursday’s resolution, with 23 countries supporting the resolution, 12 countries voting against and 12 abstaining.
In his address, Obhrai highlighted that Canada will continue to continue to press for independent investigations into alleged violations of human rights by both sides during the conflict that ended in 2009, as well as to express concerns over current human rights abuses and violations in Sri Lanka, including arbitrary detentions and reprisals against activists.
He said: “We thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights [Navanethem Pillay] for her report [Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka].
“Sri Lanka has endured a lengthy and grievous civil war, which left no community untouched. While progress has been made in reconstruction, meaningful progress on accountability and reconciliation is vital but has not been achieved.
“Canada deeply regrets the unwillingness of the [Sri Lankan] government even to acknowledge the need for independent and credible investigations into all past violations of international humanitarian law and human rights or to take comprehensive action on all of the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
“Failure to address these issues of accountability reinforces the other troubling trends: continuing human rights violations, attacks on religious minorities, shrinkage of democratic space and access to justice.
“Regrettably, domestic investigative mechanisms have not been independent or effective. Canada supports the report’s recommendation for an international inquiry mechanism to investigate all alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, both during the conflict and since. We also support the continued active engagement of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“In addition, we are disappointed by the threats against those who met or attempted to meet with officials from international organizations during the visit of the High Commissioner. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to engage constructively.
“During my visit to Sri Lanka in November 2013, I heard repeatedly about the steady degradation of the rule of law and undermining of the judiciary and other independent institutions. We would be interested to hear your [High Commissioner Pillay’s] assessment of the situation.”