The European Union (EU) has encouraged Sri Lanka to address issues relating to religious and ethnic hatred and to maintain zero tolerance for hate speech and crimes.
This was stressed by a delegation of the EU at the third meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights under the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission which was held in Brussels on Tuesday.
The meeting took place in the context of Sri Lanka being granted better access to the EU for its exports under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) in May 2017.
In a statement, the EU said the Sri Lankan Government has made progress in protecting and enhancing human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.
“A number of important measures have been taken, including the operationalisation of the Office on Missing Persons, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the passing of the Right to Information Bill,” it said.
The Working Group reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect human rights domestically and globally and to collaborate on the effective implementation of international human rights instruments.
Meanwhile, the EU delegation stressed Sri Lanka the importance of addressing areas of concern, especially torture, violence against women and the need to combat corruption.
The EU drew attention to the importance of Sri Lanka making prompt and concrete progress in fulfilling international commitments on human rights and labour rights as well as environmental protection.
There had been a detailed exchange of information on many important ongoing reforms, such as the replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act to bring them in line with international standards, and the status of the Constitution.
The participants agreed on the need to make further progress on reconciliation.
“To this end, the full implementation of the UNHRC Resolution remains a priority. The EU reiterated its readiness to continue supporting the Government in advancing national reconciliation,” the statement said.
The conclusions and recommendations of the Working Group will be reported to the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission to be held later this year in Brussels. The Joint Commission will then assess the progress achieved since the recent meeting.
The EU delegation was led by Caroline Vinot, Head of Division for Regional Affairs and South Asia of the European External Action Service while the Sri Lankan delegation was led by Shobini Gunasekera, Director-General for European Union, Commonwealth and Multilateral Treaties Division of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.