Sri Lanka: ICJ written statement to Human Rights Council

The ICJ has submitted a written statement on Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council ahead of its 40th Session in Geneva.

Almost ten years after Sri Lanka emerged from a period of conflict and massive human rights violations, the Government of Sri Lanka still has largely failed to implement its human rights obligations and commitments as reflected in Resolution 30/1.

The ICJ statement focuses on two of four transitional justice mechanisms which the Government committed to establish under the Resolution: (a) the judicial mechanism with special counsel to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law; and (b) the office of missing persons. It highlights how female victims of war are uniquely impacted by the Government’s failure to implement the commitments made before the UNHRC and underscores the importance of holistically including women when such measures are implemented.


The ICJ considers that the gravity and character of the crimes under international law committed in Sri Lanka, and the failure of the Government of Sri Lanka to meet its obligations and commitments to ensure justice for such crimes including as provided for in resolution 30/1, means that referral to the International Criminal Court or the creation of another international mechanism to facilitate criminal accountability would be fully warranted. If however the Council does not choose to pursue these options at this stage, the ICJ urges the Council at minimum to:

  • Continue the monitoring of Sri Lanka through the adoption of a new resolution to ensure that the Government complies with all its obligations and commitments as reflected in resolution 30/1.
  • Provide for OHCHR to develop, with the Sri Lankan Government, an implementation strategy with definitive timelines to ensure that the time afforded under the new resolution is utilised to expedite the implementation of measures assured under Resolution 30/1.
  • Encourage Member States to exercise universal jurisdiction in order to bring perpetrators to justice.

The ICJ urges the Government of Sri Lanka to:

  • Take immediate measures to establish the judicial mechanism with international involvement as contemplated under operative paragraph 6 of Resolution 30/1. The mechanism should ensure gender parity, be accessible for women in civil society, and allow female victims to fully participate in the process.
  • Spread awareness regarding the importance of certificates of absence and confirm to the community that issuance of a certificate will not result in the end of efforts to find the person.
  • Ensure an overall gender strategy is integrated in all other transitional justice mechanisms that are yet to be established so that structural injustices against women, especially in terms of discrimination and lack of participation, are addressed.

(full text of submission, in PDF: UN-HRC40-SriLanka-WrittenStatement-2019-EN)

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