Shreen SaroorNEUES DELHI, India, February 1 (IPS) – A decade has passed since the end of the civil war between the government and the LTTE in Sri Lanka, in which at least 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict that spanned over three decades. Families of enforced disappearances continue to seek justice. The government has yet to end impunity and become accountable for crimes under international law and human rights violations and violations in its transitional justice process.
In a recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed that failure to grapple with the past continues to wreak havoc on tens of thousands of families in Sri Lanka who are still waiting for Justice, reparation – and the truth about the fate of loved ones. The report warns that Sri Lanka’s failure to address previous violations “has significantly increased the risk of recurrence of human rights abuses”.
“Current developments in Sri Lanka are the setting for the repetition of the policies and practices that have led to serious human rights violations.” The report also points to the pattern of increased surveillance and harassment of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and victims, as well as a shrinking space for independent media.
“I see the OHCHR report as something that provides more oxygen to continue our many struggles, especially for truth and justice,” Sri Lankan-based human rights activist Shreen Saroor told IPS News. The report very well expressed the lack of access to justice and the need for accountability. It’s resilient to Sri Lanka’s militarization and deep securitization, and calls for rigorous scrutiny and demilitarization with warnings of grave consequences if it fails, Shreen says.
“Michelle Bachelet’s criticism of the surveillance of civil society organizations and the reduction in the space for disagreement, as well as the abuses of the Terrorism Prevention Act (PTA) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act (ICCPR) is alarming. However, in order to prevent another round of conflict, the report should emphasize the ongoing attacks on the religious minorities of the countries, ”says Shreen.
In early December 2020, Muslims in Sri Lanka were outraged by the forced cremation of a 20-day-old COVID-19 victim against the will of the family. Sri Lanka has been advised that it is ignoring the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines that allow both burials and cremations.
In a country where minorities are marginalized and discriminated against, Muslims victims of COVID-19 are unfairly prevented from being laid to rest according to their religious beliefs and are forcibly cremated, Amnesty International said in a statement. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world that mandates cremations for people who have died or are suspected of COVID-19. The rights group urged the Sri Lankan government not to forget that “it has a duty to ensure that all people in Sri Lanka are treated equally. COVID-19 does not and should not discriminate against the government of Sri Lanka based on ethnic, political or religious differences. ”
“For many of us who have seen minority rights violations lasting over three decades in Sri Lanka, it is important that OHCHR address the problem of growing Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism and extreme nationalism mentioned in the OHCHR report.
“It is time for OHCHR to develop an early prevention strategy to prevent another bloody war or religious violence in this country,” says Shreen.
Human Rights Watch, in its recently released 93-page report, Open Wounds and Increasing Dangers: Blocking Accountability for Serious Abuses in Sri Lanka, examines President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government efforts to thwart the judiciary on seven major human rights cases.
“The Sri Lankan government’s attack on the judiciary increases the risk of human rights violations now and in the future,” said John Fisher, Geneva director, Human Rights Watch. “The UN Human Rights Council should pass a resolution at its upcoming session showing the Rajapaksa government that the world is not ignoring its abuses and offering hope of justice to the families of the victims,” the report said.
In 2018, just before and during the ongoing session of the UNHRC, the Sri Lankan authorities made several announcements to reaffirm their commitments on the commitments made in the October 2015 resolution on Justice and Accountability for Abuses During the Civil War in Sri Lanka.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksha made several changes months after his term in office in November 2019, including replacing the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which was enacted to limit excessive executive power and facilitate independent institutions including the judiciary with the 20th Amendment, the executive consolidated power in the constitution and annulled the independent commissions, mainly Sri Lanka’s human rights commissions and the Office of Missing Persons. “Rajapaksa has appointed individuals involved in war crimes and other serious violations to senior administrative positions,” Shreen said.
In February 2020, Sri Lanka withdrew from the 2019 UN resolution on post-war accountability and reconciliation, which will be taken up in the upcoming session.
The main Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka are now calling for an international investigation. A joint letter to the members of the UN Human Rights Council stated: “The time has come for member states to recognize that there is no scope for domestic process to really deal with accountability in Sri Lanka. ”
According to this report, Sri Lanka is in talks with India and other countries for support to counter the move by the core group, which could lead to targeted sanctions, asset freezes and travel bans against alleged perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and abuses at the March meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The author is a journalist and filmmaker from New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show, which invites Muslim women from around the world to share their views.
Follow @IPSNewsUNBureauFollow IPS New UN Bureau on Instagram
(2021) – All rights reserved