Oct 18, Colombo: Ahead of next month's presidential election, Amnesty International, Friday called on Sri Lanka's presidential candidates to prioritize key human rights issues, including commitments on transitional justice made in the aftermath of the decades-long internal conflict.
The human rights group noting the slow but important progress made by Sri Lanka in addressing human rights issues said Sri Lanka's next president must put human rights at the heart of their policies.
"Human rights must be at the heart of the next Sri Lankan president's policies. The authorities have made slow and limited but important progress when it comes to addressing human rights violations and abuses including the areas of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. To move on, the wounds of the past must be redressed. That is only possible if these gains are built upon," said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
"The families of the disappeared, the victims of torture and sexual violence, the people forced off their land, and others who have suffered grave human rights violations must not be forgotten. The suspected perpetrators must be held accountable."
Amnesty International also called on the candidates, if elected, to commit to repealing repressive laws, protecting civic space, abolishing the death penalty and protecting human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Calling on the next Sri Lankan president to build on the gains made in Transitional Justice, the Amnesty said the next president should push for the repeal of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act, one of main drivers of human rights violations to this day. "It should be replaced by a law that meets international standards."
The right group stressed that the next Sri Lankan president must commit to ensuring that people are able to exercise their human rights freely and without fear of reprisals. This means upholding their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Addressing Sri Lanka's recent moves to reinstitute death penalty, the Amnesty said the next Sri Lankan president must consolidate the country's positive record by introducing an official moratorium on executions and moving towards the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.
Noting that Sri Lanka continues to criminalize homosexuality using an archaic, colonial-era penal code, the organization called on the next president to stand for human rights of all Sri Lankans.
"The next Sri Lankan president must represent all people living in Sri Lanka. That means standing up for the human rights of people from every background, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. It means protecting them from those who wish them harm and holding accountable anyone suspected of violating their rights," said Biraj Patnaik.