[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] announced on Monday that it will withdraw trade benefits from Sri Lanka [press release] because of alleged human rights violations in the country. The decision to limit trade advantages comes after a year-long EC investigation in Sri Lanka that ended last October. The EC investigation report claimed that Sri Lanka has violated several UN conventions [text, PDF] that aim to prevent torture and protect civil, political, and child rights. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht [official website] stressed that the decision is only temporary and suggested that the restrictions will be lifted when Sri Lankan officials address the rights abuses. The Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] also released a statement emphasizing the country's willingness to continue working with the international community [text] to protect citizens' rights, despite an ongoing struggle with terrorism. Sri Lanka will have six months to show an improvement in human rights before the new trade plan takes effect.
Sri Lanka has faced numerous allegations of human rights violations originating from incidents that took place during the final months of the civil war by both the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive]. Last month, a UN rights expert urged Sri Lanka [JURIST report] to conduct a war crimes probe after a video showing the execution of members of LTTE by members of the Sri Lankan military was authenticated. In October, the US State Department [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on the conflict, urging [JURIST report] Sri Lankan officials to investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes and to prosecute those responsible. While the government of Sri Lanka rejected [statement] the findings of the report, President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] decided in October to appoint an independent committee [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of human rights violations.