A report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council warns of future violations and instability in Sri Lanka because of the government’s repeated failure to redress past violations and bring justice to the victims.
Thousands of Tamils allegedly were killed and women sexually assaulted and raped by Sri Lanka’s security forces in the last six months of the country’s 26 year-long civil war.
A report issued by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of January documents violations including extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and sexual violence. It noted some of these violations, which could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, were committed by both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE.
U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet submitted a critical assessment of the current situation in Sri Lanka to the Council. She said nothing has been done to ensure justice for the victims nearly 12 years after the armed conflict. She said the current government, like its predecessor, has failed to promote reconciliation or hold any of the perpetrators to account.
“The impact on thousands of survivors, from all communities, is devastating. Moreover, the systems, structures, policies and personnel that gave rise to such grave violations in the past remain—and have recently been reinforced. Addressing grievances and redressing past violations are critical prevention tools at the core of the Council’s work,” she said.
Bachelet said disturbing trends over the past year indicate a serious deterioration in civil and political rights. She cited the rapid shrinking of Sri Lanka’s independent media and the erosion of judicial independence. She warned the growing militarization of key civilian functions was encroaching on democratic governance.
“The continued failure to implement comprehensive reforms—or to vet personnel—leaves in place security and military officers who have been implicated in alleged grave crimes and violations … Long-standing, structural and systemic issues persist in Sri Lanka, and now there are clear warning signs that past patterns of violations could be repeated,” she said.
Bachelet said the government has largely closed the door on ending impunity through a national process. Therefore, she urged the council to explore new ways to advance accountability and seek redress for victims at the international level.
Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, rejected the U.N. report.
“The contents of the report … are rife with factual inaccuracies that appear to equate atrocities committed by the LTTE, a terrorist organization proscribed internationally, with the legitimate action taken by the government to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and the right to life of our people,” Gunawardena said.
The minister called on members of the council to reject any resolution based on the report.