A United Nations Human Rights Office report has noted the sluggish pace of the transitional justice process in the country, highlighting the lack of a comprehensive strategy to address accountability for crimes of the past as a stumbling block to the process.
According to the report, the prevalent situation could result in the derailment of the momentum towards crucial aspects such as permanent peace, reconciliation, justice and stability within the nation.
Positives noted by the report include the Government’s constructive engagement with United Nations agencies, the ongoing process of constitutional reforms, establishing an Office of Missing Persons and the report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms.
The report outlines that:
“The Government has advanced on constitutional reforms and showcased some positive developments on the broader human rights agenda. The fulfilling of transitional justice commitments has, however, been worryingly slow and the structures set up and measures taken during the period under review were inadequate to ensure real progress”.
The report was mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council in relation to assessing the progress made in addressing alleged human rights abuses and violations that have taken place between 2002 and 2011.
According to the said report, structures set up and measures taken have not only been inadequate but also lacked coordination and a sense of urgency.
The report further stressed that:
“Party politics, including the balancing of power between the different constituencies of the coalition in the run-up to constitutional reforms, have contributed to a reluctance to address difficult issues regarding accountability or to clearly articulate a unified position by all parts of Government. Unclear and often contradictory messages have been delivered on transitional justice mechanisms. Public messaging around transitional justice and reconciliation has been generally confusing and at times contradictory”.
The report calls on the Government to treat positively the report of the Task Force, form a communications campaign to inform the public of the moves with regard to reconciliation, the restitution of private lands occupied by the armed forces and to enact legislation to establish a hybrid court with foreign judges.
The report also emphasizes that a number of serious human rights violations are continuing to occur in the country, with the abuses including the harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of violations, police abuse and excessive use of force and the routine use of torture in investigations and interrogations, the latter a fact also noted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the culture of impunity exacerbating such.
“And such violations need to be promptly investigated without fail. This is essential to regain and retain the trust of all Sri Lankans in the authorities and to reassure them that the State exists to protect the rights of all its people,” the report further states.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is scheduled to present the report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 22 in Geneva, Switzerland.