Oct 23, Colombo: While Sri Lanka has unprecedented levels of support in the international community because of its willingness to achieve transitional justice, it continues to lag making progress in the process and nowhere close to what it should be more than two years later after the new government made its commitments to its people concerning accountability, a top UN expert says.
Issuing a statement the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, said Sri Lanka continues to deprive itself of the benefits of Transitional Justice.
The Special Rapporteur, who visited the country on the invitation of the government, today concluded his 14-day visit from October 10-23, during which he visited Colombo as well as other locations in the south, center, north and east of the country.
During his visit, de Greiff met with officials of the government including the President, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, provincial officials, members of the judiciary, the armed forces, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, political parties, the Human Rights Commission, civil society, victims' groups, academics and representatives of the international community.
In his statement the UN expert highlighted the progress made in the transitional Justice two year after his first official visit in April 2015.
During the two years, he said it is obvious that both civil society and parts of government have travelled on a very steep learning curve regarding transitional justice issues. While the Sri Lankan civil society, with its characteristic courage, persistence, and very high capacity, continues to be fully present, the Government of Sri Lanka has also successfully cultivated capacities on the topic.
He commended the progress achieved in the creation - after a long delay - of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) although the process was protracted and involved insufficient communication with the public.
However, this list of achievements does not include most of the priority measures that he mentioned in the statement after his first visit on April 11, 2015 and it is obvious that the process is nowhere close to where it should have been more than two years later.
The Special Rapporteur reminded that the country committed itself to establishing in a two-year period (which lapsed in March of this year) measures on four different areas including, truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence in a resolution Sri Lanka co-sponsored at the Human Rights Council in October 2015.
The UN expert said the slow progress on pre-conditions for transitional justice erodes trust in the Government's capacity to move forward with the reforms.
He recommended the government to adopt a comprehensive Transitional Justice Strategy that includes a clear calendar for the implementation of the different transitional justice mechanisms, including truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence, identifies needs in terms of budget, staff and required expertise, and outlines the links between the different elements of the strategy and allow for public consultation of the plan.
In addition to repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and promptly replacing it by new counterterrorism legislation that adheres to international best practices, de Greiff suggested the government to move to terminate military involvement in commercial activities and reduce military presence in the conflict-affected Northern and Eastern provinces.
He also noted that Sri Lanka has regrettably underutilized the support offered by the United Nations. The country should particularly tap more into expertise that can be provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he said.
The Special Rapporteur said he has in all reports included recommendations concerning civil society and interventions in the cultural and individual spheres including education, arts and cultures, and archiving and he will address these issues in the full report.
The final report on the visit will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2018.
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