UN Heads Turn Up Heat on Sri Lanka

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has delivered a critical oral report of Sri Lanka following her week-long visit to the island earlier this month. Referring to the UN Human Rights Council’s call to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law during the war, Ms Navi Pillay stated she “detected no new or comprehensive effort to independently or credibly investigate the allegations” and warned that the international community will have a duty to establish its own inquiry mechanisms” if Sri Lanka failed to show “a credible national process with tangible results, including the successful prosecution of individual perpetrators”.

Ms. Pillay’s report also contained criticisms of the heavy military presence in the North, compulsory acquisition of private land for military installations in areas of the North-East, military prominence in civilian and economic activity in the North, factors impeding normalisation and the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual harassment and abuse especially at the hands of military personnel.
She further called for the repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act acknowledging arbitrary arrests continued to take place under this act. Among other things, she also highlighted the intimidation faced by human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists and the rule of law and democratic institutions being undermined and eroded.

The very same day, in an address to the UN General Assembly’s 68th session – attended by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted “systemic failure” of the UN, stating the world had failed during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka four years ago when member states failed to provide the UN with support to meet the tasks set by themselves.

 “The words of the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the admission by the UN Secretary General that the world stood by as mass atrocities took place in Sri Lanka are only meaningful if action follows,” said Dr Sam Pari, Spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress.

Press Release made on 26 September 2013