COLOMBO: Showing impatience over the slow pace of the ethic reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday listed certain urgent tasks for the Lankan government to do, so that charges of human rights abuses and war crimes are meaningfully addressed.
Pablo de Greiff, UNHRC Special Rapporteur for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence has said in his report that Lanka should take “immediate action” to clarify the fate of the disappeared; refrain from arbitrary detentions; address land issues; and put an immediate end to continuing forms of harassment, violence and unjustified surveillance of civil society and war victims, in particular women in the Eastern and Northern provinces.
“These cast a serious doubt on current efforts,” he said.
Sri Lanka was let off the hook at the March 2015 session of the UNHRC on the condition that by the time the council meets again in September, it sets in motion a credible mechanism to inquire into the charges and takes other steps to promote reconciliation. But till date, the domestic inquiry mechanism has not been set up. In fact, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ajith Perera, told the media that it will be set up only after September. He claimed that at the September session of the council, Sri Lanka is only expected to say what it proposes to do.
In his report de Greiff said: “Serious consideration needs to be given to establishing transitional justice mechanisms that contribute to building lasting institutions and capacities, and which allow for effective implementation.”
While accepting reparations as a form of transitional justice, he opposed “conditioning reparation benefits on the victims’ willingness to give up their rights to truth and justice.”
A comprehensive redress policy cannot target, either for benefits or for responsibilities, one community alone, he said. This is in view of the fact that there is a tendency to put all the blame on the Sinhalese majority and portray the Tamils as the only sufferers.
“The initiatives must track violations wherever they occurred and independently of the identity or affiliation of the victims or the perpetrators,” de Greiff said..
Consultation with those affected by the violations is essential because rights cannot simply be foisted but need to be exercised. Citizens cannot be simply presented with ‘solutions’ in the design of which they were given no role, he said.
And finally, in a country where there are, as a consequence of the conflict, close to 90,000 women-headed households, it is imperative to design and implement measures that take women’s needs into account, de Greiff said.