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UN concerned over Sri Lanka’s proposed laws

3 March 2024 09:05 am - 14     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Despicable' Quran burnings aim to drive wedges between communities,  countries: UN rights chiefUN, March 3 (Daily Mirror) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed deep concern over Sri Lanka's proposed legislative measures, at the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council, warning of their potential impact on fundamental rights and freedoms.

Türk highlighted the introduction of several new laws, including the Online Safety Act, Anti-Terrorism Bill, Electronic Media Broadcasting Authority Bill and NGO Supervision and Registration Bill. 

"These laws, if enacted, could grant extensive powers to the executive, security forces, and severely restrict freedoms of assembly, association and expression," he said.

Moreover, Türk emphasized the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, with poverty levels soaring to an estimated 27.9% and a significant decline in household incomes. Despite efforts by the government, social protection remains strained, with a substantial portion of the budget allocated towards debt servicing.

The UN High Commissioner also addressed human rights violations dating back to the civil war's end 15 years ago, including unresolved disappearances, land disputes and lack of devolution promised by Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.

Furthermore, Türk raised concerns about the delay in justice for victims of the Easter Sunday bombings, despite the introduction of draft legislation for a Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation. Allegations of surveillance, harassment and arrests of civil society representatives and journalists persist, indicating a troubling environment for accountability and truth-seeking.

He said the UN is also concerned about the appointment of the new Inspector General of Police, despite the Supreme Court’s finding that he was responsible for torture of an individual in 2010.

Highlighting reports of abductions, unlawful detention and torture, including sexual violence, Türk underscored the urgent need for comprehensive security sector reforms. Despite these challenges, the UN High Commissioner reiterated the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and economic crisis for genuine reconciliation and sustainable peace.

Türk urged the Sri Lankan government to reverse the trend of regressive laws and authoritarian approaches and called for credible accountability measures to investigate and prosecute human rights violations and economic crimes. 

He also urged member states to reinforce these efforts, including through universal jurisdiction and targeted measures against alleged perpetrators.

The full statement:

Two years ago, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans took to the streets demanding deep democratic reforms and accountability for economic mismanagement and corruption, which resulted in the most severe socio-economic crisis in a generation. There was great hope that the country would embark upon a long overdue transformation that would benefit all its communities.

While the Government has taken important steps to stabilize the economy, I am concerned by the introduction of new or proposed laws with potentially far-reaching impact on fundamental rights and freedoms, the rule of law and democratic governance.

These include the Online Safety Act; the Anti-Terrorism Bill; the Electronic Media Broadcasting Authority Bill; and the NGO Supervision and Registration Bill – which variously strengthen the executive, grant broad powers to the security forces, and severely restrict rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, impacting not only on civic space but the business environment.

Meanwhile, the disastrous consequences of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis continue to bite deeply, particularly for the most marginalised. Poverty rose further to an estimated 27.9% last year. Nearly two-thirds of households across the country have seen their monthly incomes decrease since March 2022, while food, transportation, health and education costs continue to rise. Despite the Government’s efforts, social protection remains overstretched, and the government’s largest budget expenditure this year will go towards servicing its debt. I appeal for Sri Lanka to be given the fiscal space and support by international financial institutions and creditors to uphold economic, social and cultural rights.

This year, Sri Lanka marks 15 years since the end of a decades-long civil war. Yet violations of human rights remain unaddressed. Tens of thousands of families of the disappeared are still looking for their loved ones and face intimidation, arrests and violence in their search. Land disputes continue to escalate in the north and east of the country impacting on people’s livelihoods. Provincial Councils and local government bodies, that promised a measure of devolution, are not currently constituted.

It is also almost five years since the devastating Easter Sunday bombings, and despite Supreme Court orders victims are still seeking truth and justice.

While the Government has introduced a draft legislation for a Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation, the environment for a credible truth-seeking process remains absent. My Office continues to receive allegations of surveillance, harassment and arrests by security forces of civil society representatives, journalists and victims, as well as of people who have been involved in organising commemoration events for war victims.

I remain deeply concerned about recurring, credible accounts received by my Office of abductions, unlawful detention and torture, including sexual violence, by the Sri Lankan police and security forces, some of which allegedly took place in 2023, mainly in the north and east of the country. Last week, the appointment of a new Inspector General of Police was confirmed, despite the Supreme Court’s finding that he was responsible for torture of an individual in 2010. These cases highlight the need for comprehensive security sector reform.

My Office continues to work to advance accountability in Sri Lanka. It is providing support to several jurisdictions undertaking criminal justice investigations, and is deepening its information and evidence base on specific incidents of human rights concern. It has also been carrying out research on enforced disappearance and conducting consultations with victims.

Sustainable peace and reconciliation will not be achieved in Sri Lanka with regressive laws and authoritarian approaches, which will only serve to perpetuate the human rights concerns of the past.

I urge the Government immediately to reverse this trend and undertake credible accountability measures to investigate and prosecute past and present human rights violations and economic crimes. I also urge Member States to continue to reinforce these efforts, including through appropriate use of universal and extra-territorial jurisdiction and targeted measures against credibly-alleged perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses.

It is only through addressing the root causes of the country’s conflict and economic crisis, and ensuring accountability, that Sri Lanka will be able to enhance its prospects of achieving genuine reconciliation and sustainable peace and development.


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  Comments - 14

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  • C E S Pit Sunday, 03 March 2024 09:57 AM

    Sri Lankans are also concerned about human rights violations in Gaza by the UNHRC financiers

    DISGUSTED Sunday, 03 March 2024 10:36 AM

    EXCELLENT REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF THE COUNTRY BY THE U.N. COMMISIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. DURING THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION INCREASED AND SOME POLITICIANS FEATHERED THEIR NEST TOGETHER WITH THEIR STOOGES NOT CARING A RATS TAIL FOR ITS CITIZENS, OTHER THAN SERVING THEMSELVES. THOUGHT I SAW A POST IN THIS PAPER SAYING THE GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS PAYING OUT SOME MILLIONS TO THE FAMILIES OF THE EASTER BOMBINGS!! THE PRESENT PRESIDENT WAS APPOINTED BY GOTA WHO WAS CHASED OUT WITH THE USE OF PEOPLES POWER AND SHAMELESSY RETURNED TO THE COUNTRY AFTER RUNNING OFF TO THE MALDIVE ISLANDS, SINGAPORE AND THEN THAILAND (IF I RECALLCORRECTLY). AS A EX PRESIDENT THAT RESIGNED HE STILL ENJOYS THE PERKS OF A RETIRED POLITICIAN. THE PRESENT PRESIDENT RANIL WAS APPOINTED BY GOTA, NOT BY THE PEOPLE AND IS CONCENTRATING ON THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPEMENT AND HAS NOT MADE A SINGLE ATTEMPT TO BRING THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DOWNFALL OF THE COUNTRY BEFORE A COURT OF LAW, INSPITE OF THE SUPREME COURT RULING.

    DISGUSTED Sunday, 03 March 2024 10:49 AM

    THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT KNEW WELL THEY WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SERVICE THE LOAN/S TAKEN OFF CHINA AND END RESULT THE COUNTRY FELL INTO A DEATH TRAP, WHERE CHINA WAS GIVEN A 99 YEARS LEASE OF THE HAMBANTOTA PORT. NO OFFENCE TO THE PRESIDENT PRESIDENT, BUT ONE CANNOT BELIEVE AND OR IMAGINE THAT HIS OPERATIONS ARE ONLY TO RECOVER THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE COUNTRY AND SWEEPING THE PAST CORRUPTION AND OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THE COUNTRY ON ITS KNEES IN A DEEP SINKHOLE. SRI LANKA IS GOING DOWN THE PATH OF DICTATORSHIP, WHILE THE MASSES ARE SUFFERING UNTHINKABLE HARDSHIP. IRAN AND RUSSIAN SHIPS ARRIVE, BUT CHINA UNABLE!!. ALL THESE COUNTRIES ARE RUN BY DICTATORS, SPREADING THEIR HARDCORE CITIZENS WHO THEY CAN CONTROL INTO THE COUNTRY,STARTED WITH THE SOUTH. UNLESS THE LORD PERFORMS A MIRACLE, OUR COUNTRY IS DOOMED TO FAIL. HUMAN RIGHTS!! GOVERNMENT HAD DOSE NOT CARE A RATS TAIL ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS OF IT'S CITIZENS. RANIL NEEDS TO WAKE UP BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

    Ram Sunday, 03 March 2024 11:46 AM

    Strange RW failure to attend this sessions. RW would have smelt that he is likely to get a bellyful for SL laws

    A Sunday, 03 March 2024 02:13 PM

    Yes we have problems but . UN is corrupt worse than SL bias in unbelievable way.

    Jude Sunday, 03 March 2024 08:27 PM

    Impose economic embargo otherwise you'll never stop this oppressive regime.

    M Fernando Sunday, 03 March 2024 08:49 PM

    Most countries in the world including western countries, are enacting legislation to protect politicians at the expense of citizens. Previously only so-called 'authoritarian regimes' did it. Now so-called 'democracies' have discovered the advantages of this. Today, Sri Lanka's only claim to being a democracy seems to be in it's name. In all other aspects it is becoming a more authoritarian country with a political class that largely fears it's own citizens and treats them like adversaries.

    GoSL lost already at UNHCR, GoSL a continuing failuree Sunday, 03 March 2024 09:17 PM

    Most of the measures the UNHCR is now concerned about government doing are already hated by the public. With how awfully the government is controlling the country while I believe before now realise being nationalistic towards war against the LTTE was a mistake. Everyone who participated in it, in any position of power is now happy to do Human Rights violations, because they did that already when fighting the war.

    DKirthi Sunday, 03 March 2024 09:43 PM

    Please don’t waste space in your paper for this organization. It has absolutely no credibility and should be dissolved immediately. It has made human rights a joke and ignored genocide according to the wishes of its masters.

    Buddhist Sunday, 03 March 2024 09:44 PM

    When a crook, a human rights violaor and a person under whose leadership numerous illegal police killings took place is today an IGP. This with the blessing of a guy who carried money to LTTE from Mahinda- Tiran and a person who was kicked out of the Parliament by the voters became the President with the votes of crooks who were rejected by the aragalay - Ranil . To make it worst the constitution violating Speaker illegally voted. This shows that the decks are being loaded for a bloody Presidential election. The blame has to be on Ranil, Tiran and The Speaker.

    Mahesh Pieris Sunday, 03 March 2024 10:09 PM

    Thank you for your concerns. BW Srilankan's too are concerned about the proposed laws.. We are seeing lot of debate on this.

    Wixie Monday, 04 March 2024 12:13 AM

    He is talking Turkey, UNconerned

    Kevin Monday, 04 March 2024 02:00 AM

    Nothing really happens. SL has been facing resolutions since 2012 and nothing much changed. Israel has been facing resolutions since inception of UNHRC but nothing changed.

    Raven Monday, 04 March 2024 08:00 AM

    He can tell that to the U.S. Congress. See what he gets from there.


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