‘Economic crimes’ beyond UNHRC mandate – Ali Sabri

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry, opposed the reference made to ‘economic crimes’ in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka, noting that it exceeds the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Speaking at the 51st regular session of the Human Rights Council, Sabry noted that such reference is vague and recalled the paramount importance of adhering to UN General Assembly resolutions 60/251, 48/141 and the IB package.

He added that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) will be replaced with more comprehensive national security legislation in accordance with international best practices.

“The recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry have resulted in progressive amendments to the PTA and the release of detainees. Further recommendations are awaited,” he added.

He also said, “We will continue to provide the necessary support and resources to strengthen the functioning of the independent domestic mechanisms including the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the Office for Reparations (OR), the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).”

Speaking on the proposed 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, he noted, the Amendment introduces several salient changes which would strengthen democratic governance and independent oversight of key institutions, and combat corruption including through the constitutional recognition of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

“Sri Lanka remains committed to protecting human rights and reconciliation through independent domestic institutions,” he further noted.

He said, Sri Lanka, along with several members of the Council, have opposed resolution 46/1, fundamentally disagreeing with its legitimacy and objectives. “We have consistently highlighted that the content of the resolution, its operative Paragraph 6 in particular, violates the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and the principles of the UN Charter,” he added.

“Once again, we are compelled to categorically reject any follow-up measures to the resolution, as well as the related recommendations and conclusions by the High Commissioner,” he added.

Measures aimed at promoting reconciliation and human rights, if they are to be meaningful and sustainable, must be based on cooperation with the country concerned, be compatible with the aspirations of its people, and be consonant with its basic legal framework, Sabry said.

“We endeavour to establish a credible truth-seeking mechanism within the framework of the Constitution. The contours of a model that would suit the particular conditions of Sri Lanka are under discussion,” he said.

“It is 13 years since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, and since then, a new generation has emerged with their own aspirations. While issues of reconciliation and accountability are being comprehensively addressed through a domestic process, it is time to reflect realistically on the trajectory of this resolution which has continued on the agenda of the Council for over a decade, and undertake a realistic assessment on whether it has benefited the people of Sri Lanka,” he said.

Sabry added, there is a need to acknowledge actual progress on the ground and support Sri Lanka adding that the current challenges, though formidable, have provided us with a unique opportunity to work towards institutional change for the betterment of our people.

“We are not hesitant to acknowledge our challenges and forge ahead with renewed vigour. While our immediate concern is economic recovery, advancing the human rights of our people is of equal priority. We look to the genuine support and understanding of this Council, as we proceed on this path,” he said.  (FT)