Sri Lanka: communal violence, reconciliation and justice mechanisms (UN statement)

The ICJ spoke at the UN today on concerns about a resurgence of communal violence, and a failure to implement reconciliation and justice mechanisms, in Sri Lanka.

The statement, made during the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review for Sri Lanka by the Human Rights Council, read as follows:

“The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has stated that it maintains zero tolerance for hate speech and religious violence, and that the National Human Rights Action Plan 2017–2021 contains a firm commitment to enforce section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act. The ICJ further notes that a circular was issued requiring all police officers to take immediate action in this regard. Despite these commitments, recent events demonstrate renewed conflict owing to communal violence directed at the Muslim minority. A state of emergency was proclaimed on 6 March following inaction from law enforcement, and its inability to contain the violence, and emergency regulations were in operation until yesterday.

The ICJ urges the government to demonstrate through action, its willingness bring to account those who have incited communal violence, in line with the ICCPR Act and the commitments conveyed by His Excellency the Ambassador here today. Pervading impunity has emboldened perpetrators to incite violent hatred publicly. Justice must follow recent arrests, ensuring impartial and effective investigations and trials, in line with human rights.

The ICJ also notes the limited progress made on implementing HRC resolution 30/1. Of the reconciliation mechanisms promised, only the Office on Missing Persons is operational. There is little transparency with regards to the other proposed mechanisms (including the mechanism on accountability with involvement of international judges, prosecutors and investigators), or in relation to repeal and replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Any new counterterrorism law must comply with international human rights standards, and we welcome the Ambassador’s affirmation of the Government’s commitment to this today.

The ICJ urges Sri Lanka to accept and implement all relevant UPR recommendations without delay, before the opportunity for reform may be lost.”

Video of the ICJ statement is available here:

Video of the opening presentation by H.E. the Ambassador of Sri Lanka is available here:


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