The final report of the Sri Lankan government’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was made public in November 2011, contains some positive recommendations.
This has already been pointed out by civil society organization, political parties and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, who have called for effective and immediate implementation of these recommendations. The government of Sri Lanka has also declared its intention of implementing the recommendations of the LLRC.
However, the LLRC mandate, and therefore its Report, falls short of responding in any way to the issues of accountability and justice, relating to the allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law by the LTTE and by the Government of Sri Lanka in the last months of the war in 2009, set out, for example, in the Report of the Panel of Experts created by the UN Secretary General.
Among the recommendations of the LLRC are some that could challenge the record of impunity in the country and address the issues of accountability and justice that remain in the post-conflict era; there are others that could pave the way for a constructive discussion on power-sharing in the country, in which the minority communities, in particular the Tamil community, could feel an affirmation of their status as full and equal citizens of Sri Lanka.
In this context, the Network for Rights (NfR) welcomes the current initiative at the UN Human Rights Council’s 19th session to bring the LLRC report on to the formal agenda of the Council, through a Resolution that will reflect cross-regional concern regarding the situation in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan government has launched a big campaign to resist this process, attacking political parties and civil society groups and human rights groups in Sri Lanka, accusing them of collaborating with the LTTE and bringing the country to disrepute. The attacks have in particular been focused on their participation in the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. This has led to major concern regarding the safety and security of the few human rights defenders who will engage in advocacy around accountability for human rights violations in Sri Lanka at the Council in spite of these threats. It is very important to keep in mind that these attacks take place in an environment in which the number of abductions and disappearances has risen; there have been 4 abductions, one death of a protester killed by police shooting and two dead bodies found on the roadside just in the 7 days between February10 and 16.
In Sri Lanka, our past experience of Presidential Commissions of Inquiry is negative. They have often been used as a way for successive governments to avoid issues of justice, reparation and reconciliation, and have ignored the voices of the victims and survivors of egregious violations.
We appeal to the members of the Human Rights Council to honour their commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all by ensuring that the government of Sri Lanka is called on to implement the recommendations of the LLRC and other human rights obligations within a specified time period. For this, it is imperative that the outcomes of any Resolution on this matter will be time-bound and subject to monitoring by an independent and credible body established according to international human rights norms and standards.
We also call on the Human Rights Council to impress upon the government of Sri Lanka that all and any reprisals against human rights defenders in Sri Lanka that arises out of their cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and procedures would be considered a serious breach of obligations.