June 23, Geneva: Sri Lanka today strongly rejected a claim made by Canada at the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that the presence of the military contributes to the insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict-affected areas.
Exercising a 'Right of Reply' with regard to the statement made by Canada during the General Debate on Friday (June 20), Sri Lanka said this claim is not substantiated by verifiable data or evidence.
At the debate on human rights situations that require the Council's attention, Canada said it "remains deeply concerned about the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, highlighted by the inter-communal violence against Muslims this week, as well as reports of ongoing use of rape and sexual violence by Sri Lankan security forces against perceived government opponents."
Delivering the 'Right of Reply' Sri Lanka said the government has a well-established, zero tolerance policy on sexual and gender based violence against women, and continues to take strong action against reported cases of violence against women.
It was pointed out to the Council that the involvement of security forces personnel as a percentage of the total incidents of sexual violence is low, both in the conflict and the post-conflict periods.
According to the official reports, during the conflict period from January 2007- May 2009, 7 security forces personnel were reported as having been involved in 5 incidents of sexual violence in the Northern Province, out of a total of 125 persons accused in 119 incidents for the entire Province.
In the post-conflict period from 2009 - May 2012, 10 security forces personnel were reported as having been involved in 6 incidents of sexual violence in the Northern Province, out of a total of 307 persons accused in 256 incidents for the entire Province.
The involvement of security forces personnel as a percentage of the total accused stands at 5.6% in the conflict period, and 3.3% in the post-conflict period, the representative told the UNHRC.
It was noted that any allegations supported by credible evidence are dealt with firmly by the authorities and legal action has been taken by the Government in all cases in which the Sri Lankan security personnel have been involved.
Sri Lanka further said the Sri Lankan military continues to provide large-scale human rights training to its personnel with the assistance of the ICRC.
The Council was told that the claim by Canada that the presence of military contributes to the insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict-affected areas remains at the level of allegation unsubstantiated by verifiable data.
The envoy said no evidence has been directly brought to the attention of Government authorities by any claimant, to enable the conduct of credible investigations and prosecutions and what Canada meant by 'perceived government opponents' is unclear.
Sri Lanka requested Canada to refrain from making "irresponsible, unsubstantiated claims driven by diaspora imperatives which is not helpful to the process of bringing about genuine reconciliation among communities in the aftermath of such a grievous and long-drawn conflict."