Sri Lanka must improve human rights record: UN rights chief

[JURIST] Sri Lanka must continue to work to improve its human rights record, according to an oral report [text, DOC] by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] filed Wednesday with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website]. The report noted the large military presence in certain regions and lack of civil administration and economic activity, despite four years having passed since the end of the country's26-year civil war [JURIST news archive]. Although there are some improvements, such as the separation of the police from the Ministry of Defense, Pillay found areas requiring improvement. The High Commissioner gave the government until March 2014 to establish a "credible national process" by taking measures such as prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations. The report also noted that the country saw a surge of hate crimes against religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims. Pillay condemned the government's response of denying the issue or blaming the minorities for the surge. Moreover, Pillay "observed great disquiet" about the erosion of rule of law and democratic institutions, especially in light of the recent criminal corruption charges [JURIST report] against former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake [JURIST news archive]. The impeachment of the justice endangered the independence of the judiciary, according to the report. The Sri Lankan government rejected the report [Colombo Gazette report], stating that Pillay does not have the authority to call for an international investigation if the government fails to meet the March 2014 deadline.

The oral update was another call by Pillay to Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record. In August Pillay expressed particular concern [JURIST report] with the curtailment and denial of personal freedoms and human rights, claiming these limitations threaten democracy and the rule of law in the country. The UN and other international human rights groups have urged Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes committed during its civil war with the LTTE. Also in August, at the beginning of her visit, Pillay pledged to raise concerns [JURIST report] with the government's human rights record, particularly with regard to alleged war crimes against ethnic Tamils. In May Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said that there has been no progress [JURIST report] regarding respect for basic rights and liberties in the four years since the end of the country's civil war. In March the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution [JURIST report] to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. In February Sri Lankan authorities were accused of using rape [JURIST report] as a method of interrogating members or supporters of the LTTE. Earlier that same month the UN criticized Sri Lanka for failing to investigate war crimes, and HRW pushed [JURIST reports] for an independent investigation of rights abuses.

 

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