The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The resolution, drafted in response to a scathing UN report published in January, emphasises the importance of an accountability mechanism for parties involved in violence and human rights violations, citing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as an example. It goes on to express concern about Sri Lanka’s worsening human rights situation, citing as evidence the deterioration of the judiciary’s independence, policies against religious freedom, marginalisation of Tamil and Muslim people, surveillance of society, limitations on media freedom, arbitrary detentions, alleged torture, and sexual and ghettoization.
The resolution calls on Sri Lanka’s government to ensure that human rights and international humanitarian law violations are investigated and prosecuted. The government is also urged to ensure the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Office on Missing Persons, and the Office for Reparations are all working properly, according to the resolution. The resolution also urges the government to “secure civil society actors, including human rights defenders,” “investigate any attacks,” and “ensure a stable and enabling atmosphere in which civil society can function without hindrance, surveillance, insecurity, or fear of reprisals.”
International human rights organisations have praised the resolution. The resolution is “a major development by the Human Rights Council, which signals a change in approach by the international community,” according to Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN in Geneva. “Years of funding and encouragement for Sri Lanka to seek justice at the national level have yielded no results,” she said. This resolution should send a powerful warning to offenders from the past and present that they cannot act with impunity.”