Resolution on Abuses in Sri Lanka Welcome But Not Strong Enough

On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to pass a resolution critical of the Sri Lankan government’s failure to take action to stop ongoing human rights violations and calling for an investigation into abuses committed during and in the aftermath of the country’s 26-year civil war. Despite a significant campaign by the Sri Lankan government to prevent its passage, twenty-five countries voted in support of the resolution while thirteen countries opposed and eight abstained.  Freedom House welcomes the continued attention to the abuses committed by the Sri Lankan government, but is disappointed by the weakening of the resolution which removed a call for an international investigation. Freedom House is also dismayed that several democratic countries, including Japan and Botswana, abstained from supporting the resolution.

Sri Lanka’s civil war resulted in at least 100,000 deaths, and both the government and the separatist Tamil rebels have been accused of large-scale atrocities including mass killing of civilians. The Human Rights Council previously passed a resolution on Sri Lanka in March of 2012 calling for an investigation into atrocities committed during and after the war and implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The government has failed to adequately address and implement many of those recommendations, and there are continued reports of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture. Additionally, journalists and civil society continue to face harassment, retaliation, and restrictions on freedom of expression.

The resolution passed this week reiterates the vital importance of full implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and of a credible and independent investigation of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Additionally, the resolution encourages Sri Lanka to implement additional recommendations made by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a recent report, including establishing an inclusive truth and reconciliation process.  The government of Sri Lanka must take swift and concrete action to halt ongoing human rights abuses and ensure justice and accountability.

Sri Lanka is rated Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2013 survey, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2012: Sri Lanka

Freedom on the Net 2012: Sri Lanka

Freedom of the Press 2012: Sri Lanka

Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Sri Lanka

Press Release: UN Rights Council Resolution First Step Toward Reconciliation for Sri Lankans