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MRG welcomes UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka

27 March 2013

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) last week of a resolution on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka which expresses concerns about current violations and calls for more to be done on accountability and reconciliation in the country.

The resolution was sponsored by the United States, co-sponsored by 41 countries and adopted with 25 states in favour. Thirteen countries voted against the resolution and eight abstained.

‘The international community has sent out a strong message to the Sri Lankan Government that it must improve its human rights record and make a more committed and genuine effort towards reconciliation,’ says Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. ‘Sri Lanka must seriously heed this call, particularly on minority rights protection which is a key message in the resolution,’ he adds.

The resolution calls on the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to effectively implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The resolution goes further to call on the GoSL to conduct an impartial and credible investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the country and implement recommendations made in a 2011 report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly on seeking technical assistance to set up a truth-seeking mechanism.

A UN independent investigation estimates that around 40,000 people were killed in the last stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. There is credible evidence that war crimes were committed by both the GoSL and the LTTE rebel movement. These urgently need to be investigated in order to bring perpetrators to justice, MRG and other international organisations have repeatedly said since 2009.

MRG also welcomes the expression of concern in the resolution regarding on-going violations, such as enforced disappearances, attacks against human rights defenders and discrimination based on freedom of religion. MRG says, on the basis of this resolution, that it is now the turn of the Commonwealth to take action on Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is scheduled to be held there later this year.

‘The Commonwealth can no longer ignore the growing international criticism against Sri Lanka’s human rights record and lack of accountability,’ Söderbergh says, adding that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) should make sure that Sri Lanka makes it to the agenda of their next meeting in April 2013.

Commonwealth states in the UN HRC such as India and Sierra Leone voted in favour of the resolution while Kenya, Botswana and Malaysia abstained. Commonwealth states that are not members of the UN HRC including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Cyprus co-sponsored the resolution.