The Sri Lankan government has not met its pledge to curtail police abuses prior to the March 2017 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.
Issuing a statement, the HRW said security sector reform was one of 25 undertakings by Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council resolution adopted by consensus in October 2015.
It said the Sri Lankan government has failed to repeal the abusive Prevention of Terrorism Act or take serious measures to reduce torture in custody.
“It’s crucial that the Human Rights Council consider closely whether Sri Lanka made progress in the security sector as well as its other commitments such as transitional justice. Nearly 18 months after making important promises to the council, Sri Lanka’s leaders appear to be backtracking on key human rights issues, including reforming the police,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.
Reform of the security sector has lagged behind action on the council resolution’s four pillars of transitional justice: accountability, the disappeared, truth-seeking, and reconciliation.
A recent report from the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, highlighted the ongoing “culture of torture” in Sri Lanka.
A 2015 report by HRW also found that Sri Lankans routinely face torture and other ill-treatment by the police. In the vast majority of cases, the victims were unable to obtain any meaningful redress, the statement said.
“The government has yet to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which has been used to arbitrarily detain terrorism suspects and others without charge for years. During the country’s 26-year-long civil war, the government asserted that the PTA was a necessary tool in its battle against the LTTE. Yet, nearly eight years after the war’s end in May 2009, the PTA not only remains on the books but continues to be used to arrest and detain people,” it said.
The upcoming Human Rights Council session provides an important opportunity for UN member countries to closely examine the Special Rapporteur on torture’s report and the problem of torture and other police abuse in Sri Lanka. They should press the government to address these concerns as part of the overall reform efforts underway under the Human Rights Council resolution.
“The Mendez report on torture maps out a detailed reform proposal that the Sri Lankan government should embrace and implement,” Adams said. “The Human Rights Council can rev up this process by addressing torture and police reform in its review of Sri Lanka’s compliance with the council’s resolution,” the statement said.