Ensure democratic space is open, ‘core group’ tells Sri Lanka

Rita French

Rita French  

Sri Lanka must ensure that the democratic space in the country remains open and accountable, the ‘Core Group’ on Sri Lanka has said, observing that the “extraordinary measures to tackle the pandemic should not be used to roll back human rights”.

Addressing the ongoing 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Rita French, the United Kingdom’s International Ambassador for Human Rights voiced concern over “the targeting and marginalisation” of minority groups in Sri Lanka, the pardoning of Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake – a soldier on death row for killing eight Tamils – the promotion of “others accused of serious violations” during the conflict, and the “militarisation of a wide range of civilian functions”.

She was speaking on behalf of Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, or the ‘Core Group on Sri Lanka’, backing the UN resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights’. Sri Lanka – under the former President Maithripala Sirisena – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe administration – co-sponsored the 2015 resolution, showing intent to confront difficult questions lingering since the brutal civil war between the armed forces and the separatist LTTE ended in 2009.

However, the successor government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced in February this year that Sri Lanka would withdraw from co-sponsoring the resolution, evoking “profound disappointment” among the ‘Core Group’.

Citing Sri Lanka’s “commitment to advancing these principles through domestic processes”, the member countries emphasised that “any accountability mechanism must have the confidence of those affected.”

While Sri Lanka had kept COVID-19 case numbers “significantly lower than the regional average”, Ms. French in her statement urged the island nation to “follow due process” and comply with “international norms and universal rights”, in detentions and arrests. Sri Lanka has so far reported 2,050 coronavirus cases, 1,748 recoveries and 11 deaths.

Meanwhile, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Council that “In Sri Lanka and India, members of the Muslim minority are being targeted by stigma and hate speech associating them with COVID-19.”

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 10:34:00 AM |

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