UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Urges Sri Lanka to End Impunity and Reform Its Justice System
Sri Lanka and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On March 4, 2022, at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged Sri Lanka in her Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report to end impunity, which promotes further human rights violations in the country, and reform its justice system (Schlein, 2022). While Bachelet welcomed the recent attempt to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), she clarified that much more is needed to end the prevailing impunity and “prevent any recurrence of past violations” (Schlein, 2022).
Furthermore, she called on member states to “pursue alternate strategies to advance accountability at the international level”, due to successive Sri Lankan governments demonstrating their “unwillingness to pursue accountability” (Tamil Guardian, 2022). Bachelet encouraged other member states to “investigate and prosecute” the perpetrators of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka “in their jurisdictions, under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction” (Tamil Guardian, 2022). In 2021, the UNHRC passed Resolution 46/1, mandating the OHCHR to “collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve” evidence that may be used in future war crimes trials. In her update Bachelet reiterated the importance of the resolution as a means to “pursue accountability for the serious international crimes committed in Sri Lanka” (Tamil Guardian, 2022).
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris, responded to the OHCHR report, stating that it contains “serious anomalies and weaknesses” (Colombo Page, 2022). Furthermore, he claimed that the report contained several “unsubstantiated allegations and superficial conclusions insensitive to the complexity” of the situation on the ground (Colombo Page, 2022). Additionally, Peiris voiced his dismay with the report, calling it an “unwarranted onslaught” on domestic Sri Lankan institutions within the countries’ legal system, which “are subject to stringent review processes which form an integral part of our tried and tested laws” (Colombo Page, 2022).
Sources and further reading:
Colombo Page (2022, March 05). Sri Lanka says High Commissioner’s report to UNHRC contains numerous unsubstantiated allegations. Colombo Page. Retrieved March 06, 2022, from http://www.colombopage.com/archive_22A/Mar05_1646504717CH.php.
Schlein, L. (2022, March 05). UN: Impunity Remains Widespread in Sri Lanka. Voa News. Retrieved March 06, 2022, from https://www.voanews.com/a/6471761.html.
Tamil Guardian (2022, March 05). UN High Commissioner calls on international community to ‘pursue alternate strategies to advance accountability’ for human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. Tamil Guardian. Retrieved March 06, 2022, from https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/un-high-commissioner-calls-international-community-pursue-alternate-strategies-advance.