Joint Civil Society Submission to UN Periodic Review on Sri Lanka (2017)

JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY SUBMISSION TO THE UN PERIODIC REVIEW OF SRI LANKA (28TH SESSION)

March 30, 2017

Signatory Civil Society Organizations

  1. Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (Jaffna)
  2. Centre for Human Rights and Development (Colombo)
  3. Centre for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (Trincomalee)
  4. Jaffna Press Club (Jaffna)
  5. Maatram Foundation (Vavuniya)
  6. Mannar Citizens’ Committee (Mannar)
  7. Tamil Civil Society Forum (Jaffna)
  8. Tamil Lawyers’ Forum (Sri Lanka)

Summary

  1. Since Sri Lanka’s last UPR second-cycle review in 2012, there has been a change in Government from the authoritarian government led by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to the self-proclaimed ‘National Unity Government’ led by President Maithripala Sirisena. Shortly after the regime change in January 2015 (consolidated in August 2015), the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 at the UN Human Rights Council, which among other things, included commitments to creating a credible hybrid court, undertaking meaningful security sector reform, releasing military-occupied lands, and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The election of the national unity government alongside Resolution 30/1 inspired cautious optimism across the country that perhaps Sri Lanka could move to a positive trajectory that would allow for accountability for atrocity crimes committed during the war, meaningful reconciliation and better promotion and protection of human rights, leading to more sustainable peace. Unfortunately, in the period since the election and the resolution was passed, the GoSL has not demonstrated the strong leadership necessary to put Sri Lanka on the right trajectory, and instead has continued to allow or even promote the culture of impunity and lack of respect for human rights that existed under the previous regime and during the war.
  1. As seen in appendix I to this submission containing a completed matrix of recommendations from the previous UPR cycle on Sri Lanka, the GoSL has given the appearance of taking some steps towards implementing recommendations and addressing human rights issues, however many of these steps remain at the level of superficial engagement or cooperation with UN mechanisms and mandate-holders, while domestically the GoSL’s messaging contradicts these seemingly positive steps.
  1. As this submission will highlight, the following pressing human rights issues continue to particularly affect the North-East of the island: (1) heavy militarization; (2) illegal land acquisitions and displacement; (3) the continued operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and detention of political prisoners; (4) lack of investigations into/accountability for enforced disappearances and the ‘Office of Missing Persons Act’; (5) repressed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; and (6) lack of accountability for atrocity crimes committed during the war. The United Nations and its member states play a critical role in pushing Sri Lanka towards meeting its human rights obligations and the UPR will serve as an important opportunity to issue recommendations on these six key issues which directly and significantly affected the war-affected victim communities in the North-East.

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Please download the full UPR submission here.

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