Sri Lanka: Government’s refusal to implement UN Resolutions strengthens case for international justice mechanisms 

The ICJ today condemned the Sri Lankan Government’s announced “withdrawal” of support for the process under UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardane, formally announced the decision on 26 February at a High-Level Segment of the 43rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva.

“The Government of Sri Lanka’s refusal to implement effective measures for truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation, including as set out in the resolutions of the Human Rights Council, places it in violation of its obligations under international law,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Holding perpetrators of human rights violations accountable at the international level now appears to be the only real option – including referral to the International Criminal Court, the creation of an ad hoc international mechanism, and the exercise of universal jurisdiction.”

Gunawardane stated that the Government of Sri Lanka would instead “achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process, including through the appropriate adaptation of existing mechanisms, in line with the Government’s policy framework.”

“It is the Sri Lankan Government’s failure to initiate a credible and comprehensive approach to transitional justice in the aftermath of the war that led to the intervention of the international community in the first place,” said Rawski. “Sri Lanka’s domestic legal system has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unable to address systemic and entrenched impunity for crimes under international law perpetrated by the military and security forces,” he added.

Pronouncements by the President, on protecting military personnel from any accountability measures coupled with appointments to senior command positions individuals credibly accused of serious human rights violations indicate that the long history of impunity of security forces in Sri Lanka is set to continue.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that the Government’s official refusal to implement the UN resolutions comes at a time when the human rights situation in Sri Lanka is rapidly deteriorating. It threatens to undermine even the meagre progress made over the past few years, which albeit slow and wholly insufficient, has been primarily due to the continued engagement of the Council, OHCHR and international community. The UNHRC process is also the only forum at the global level where Sri Lankan civil society and victim groups have had the opportunity to engage openly in dialogue with the Government and other States on human rights concerns in Sri Lanka.

The validity of adopted resolutions of the Council does not depend on their acceptance by the government concerned. Reporting and discussion of Sri Lanka’s implementation or failure to implement them will take place this year and in 2021 at the Council regardless of the Government’s position.


Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, t: +66 2 619 84 77; e: frederick.rawski(a)

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