Geneva Resolution : SL awaits extension to fulfil obligations | Sunday Observer

Geneva Resolution : SL awaits extension to fulfil obligations

A protest against UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zaid Al Hussein’s visit to Sri Lanka in February last year. Pic: Lake House Media Library

In the backdrop of rumours that Sri Lanka may be given an extension of time to fulfil her obligations under the Geneva Resolution 30/1, the final report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka remains inaccessible.

This comprehensive report on Sri Lanka’s progress mandated by the 2015 Resolution will outline the High Commissioner’s verdict on Sri Lanka’s progress on transitional justice commitments it has made before the international community in Geneva in 2015.

Almost all reports to be tabled in the 34th Regular Sessions of the Human Rights Council, posted by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights are now open for perusal by visitors to the OHCHR website except the report on Sri Lanka.

This means if Sri Lanka succeeds in winning an extension to fulfil undertakings in the Resolution 30/1, the High Commissioner’s observations and recommendations will stay until the expiration of the new term.

A section of the TNA in the meantime has opposed any extra time to be given to Sri Lanka. TNA former parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran has accused Party Leader R.Sampanthan and MP M.A.Sumanthiran indirectly supporting the government’s call for a technical roll over. He reportedly claimed that EPRLF, PLOTE and TELO have opposed any extra time being given to Sri Lanka to show progress.

In addition to the High Commissioner’s report which would accompany further recommendations for Sri Lanka to improve its human rights situation, two other reports will be be tabled on Sri Lanka at the upcoming HRC session: ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, on her mission to Sri Lanka - Note by the Secretariat’ and the ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on his mission to Sri Lanka’. These reports are now open for reference by visitors to the OHCHR website.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera addressing Parliament last Wednesday at an adjournment motion moved by the Opposition Leader and TNA Leader R.Sampanthan said, ‘we should not walk into our 70th year of Independence with unresolved issues, that would cripple our nation’s forward march towards prosperity’.

He promised that the journey the government began with the passage of the Resolution for the appointment of the Constitutional Assembly in April last year must be pursued with vigour.

The Minister is expected to travel to Geneva on Sunday and address the HRC sessions on February 28 seeking a technical roll over. It is rumoured that other countries will assist Sri Lanka, given the progress it has made so far in the transitional justice sector.

Sri Lanka was given two years to fulfil the commitments it made before HRC in September 2015. While some of the obligations have been fulfilled, there remains outstanding issues.

Subsequent to his speech, Foreign Minister tabled three reports in Parliament, a chart titled ‘Festina Lente – advancing human rights, accountability, reconciliation and good governance in Sri Lanka’ which lists “work-in- progress” from January 2015 up-to- date, a report on cases pertaining to detainees and a report on land release from the Ministry of Defence.

“On all these issues – detainees, land release, resettlement, PTA - we must resolve firmly to find solutions once and for all, within this calendar year, while we move forward diligently on the processes of truth-seeking, justice, reparation, and security sector reforms,” the Minister said.

The UK has expressed desire to move a consensual resolution with Sri Lanka at the 34th HRC session.

Sri Lanka has not made it’s position known about this resolution which was first announced by the UK at the organisational meeting for the 34th session of the UNHRC held a fortnight ago.

The obligations it has fulfilled include ratifying International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, setting up the Missing Persons Secretariat, ratifying witness protection laws and ratification of Right to Information Act.

Meanwhile, in his report, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has recommended the immediate repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and review of draft legislation to replace the PTA. He says, the Government must urgently sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In addition, he has recommended that the government should urgently ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, abolish capital punishment, amend the Police Act to make the police more accountable and effective.

It has also recommended shutting down the Poonthotam rehabilitation centre and release unconditionally those who remain in the centre or any other rehabilitation centre. Another recommendation is the establishment of an office to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture, independent of the Office of the Attorney-General.

Further, the report says, the state must enact implementing legislation for all international treaties Sri Lanka has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.