Core-Group Presents Draft Resolution on Sri Lanka

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The first draft of the Resolution on Sri Lanka ‘promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ by the UK-led Core Group, which would be taken for a debate soon at the 51st  UNHRC Session, raises concerns on the persistent lack of independence, impartiality, and transparency of domestic mechanisms, and that emblematic human rights cases have been undermined through delays and the granting of Presidential Pardons to those accused or convicted of crimes relating to grave violations of human rights.

The other members of the Core-Group are the United States of America, Germany, Canada, Malawi, North Macedonia and Montenegro jointly expressed their concern over other human rights developments since April 2022 including violence against and arrests of peaceful protesters, as well as violence against Government supporters, resulting in deaths, injuries, destruction and damage to houses of Members of Parliament and stresses the importance of independent investigations into all attacks and for those found responsible to be held to account.

The Group also called  on the Government of Sri Lanka to address the on-going economic crisis and help ensure it does not happen again, including by investigating and, where warranted, prosecuting corruption, including by public and former public officials, and stands ready to assist and support independent, impartial, and transparent efforts in this regard. They also noted that they remained concerned at the continued militarisation of civilian government functions; the erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights; lack of progress in addressing
long-standing grievances and demands of Tamil and Muslim populations; surveillance, intimidation and harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, families of the disappeared and persons involved in memorial initiatives and sexual and gender-based violence.

The draft of the Core Group recognised  the importance of preserving and analysing evidence relating to violations and abuse of human rights and related crimes in Sri Lanka with a view to advancing accountability, and decided to extend and reinforce the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member States, with competent jurisdiction.

They have also added a new resolution of ‘recognising the recent efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to address the on-going economic crisis, and welcoming the staff-level agreement reached between the Government of Sri Lanka and the International Monetary Fund’.

Based on the HRC resolution 47/7, they also noted that they have recognised that the promotion and protection of human rights and the prevention of and fight against corruption were mutually reinforcing, that corruption can have a serious negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, and that the poor and those in marginalised and vulnerable situations, including women and girls, are at particular risk of suffering from the adverse impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights.

The Core-Group also said they have to reiterate the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to constitutional reforms while stressing the importance of the independence of key commissions and institutions including the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Election Commission, the National Police Commission, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and the judiciary. The Core-Group also called on the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population, and encouraging the Government to respect local governance, including through the holding of elections for provincial councils, and to ensure that all provincial councils, including the northern and eastern provincial councils, are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka as mentioned in the 46/1 resolution passed in 2021.

They also recalled the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations under human rights law and international humanitarian law, including, where applicable, to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.

They welcomed the engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with the Office of the High Commissioner and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, urges the continuation of such engagement and dialogue, and calls upon Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made by the Office and to give due consideration to the recommendations made by the special procedures and that the resolution could be further amended.

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan