Sri Lanka hits back at concerns raised by UN human rights chief

Sri Lanka has hit back at concerns raised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet saying some comments were unwarranted and pre-judgmental.

The Foreign Ministry quoted the Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, Dayani Mendis as telling the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed, debated, following a complete democratic process, where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views.

“Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka is of the view that High Commissioner’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption,” Mendis said.

On the opening day of the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, Bachelet had noted concerns the 20th Amendment will have on the independence of key institutions including the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.

She also said that the pardon given in March to a former Army sergeant convicted of participating in unlawful killings; appointments to key civilian roles of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity; and moves within the police and judiciary to thwart the investigation of such crimes, set a very negative trend.

“The Government of Sri Lanka wishes to state that the pardon to the former Army sergeant was granted in terms of the powers and provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The Government rejects the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions. Sri Lanka has consistently refuted the credibility of these allegations and wishes to highlight that the domestic processes such as the LLRC and Paranagama Commissions that examined these allegations particularly with regard to the last stages of the conflict, have not found substantive evidence against any of the senior military officials referred to in this regard,” Mendis said.

She said that in the absence of any substantive proof, Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations on crimes or crimes against humanity made against these senior military officials are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.
“With regard to allegations of surveillance and intimidation, the Government has already publicly refuted these allegations, and is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensure that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are investigated and prosecuted,” she said.

Mendis said that the prime focus of the Government is to ensure national security, and to uphold the rule of law and order in the country for all its citizens, with the aim of creating “an environment where any citizen can live freely without any fear for the safety of themselves and their families.”

In line with the above policy framework, the Government says it is committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, with a determination to uplift the lives of all its citizens and ensure that there is no threat to peace, reconciliation or development in Sri Lanka.

Mendis also said that the Government hopes the Council would appreciate that Sri Lanka while successfully containing the spread of COVID-19 through a balanced, multi-sectoral approach, and despite this challenge, held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully, last month, which the EU has acknowledged.

She also said that Sri Lanka made it clear even as it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1, that it will remain committed to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution, through a domestically designed and executed process in line with the Government’s policy framework. (Colombo Gazette)