While praising Sri Lanka’s progress in human rights, and labour and environmental standards, the European Union (EU) warned that more action was needed to comply with international conventions including ending torture for the country to retain duty free market access.
The EU Embassy in Sri Lanka in a communiqué released last week said a team of senior officials from Brussels were in the country on a 10-day a fact-finding mission.
“The mission has focused on the status of the implementation of 27 international conventions of which Sri Lanka is a signatory,” the communique said. “Progressive implementation of the conventions is the condition for continued preferential access to the European Union market – the world’s largest and Sri Lanka’s biggest export market – under the GSP Plus.”
“The excellent cooperation by the Government is a reminder of how much the situation has changed in the country over the last two and a half years, including real advances in human rights,” Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue said after meeting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:
“But there are still important concerns about the lack of concrete progress in key areas. Torture has to stop.”
Further, Tung-Lai Margue pointed out the the importance of the government delivering on its commitments, including replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act with counter-terrorism legislation consistent with international standards and allowing people in custody to have access to a lawyer from the point of arrest.
“Clarifying the fate of those who disappeared at the end of the war and speeding up the return of land will help to restore confidence, particularly in the North and East, in the policy of national reconciliation.”
According to the statement, the visiting EU team had held meetings with government ministers, civil society, trade unions and international organizations during its stay.
The delegation had also travelled to Jaffna and Kilinochchi and had met with Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran and several members of the civil society, including a number of human rights activists.
The EU statement said the team had raised concerns about continued discrimination against women and girls and against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Sri Lankans.