Sri Lanka: Repeal draconian laws and ensure meaningful inclusion of civil society in transitional justice processes

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Office of the High Commisioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Sri Lanka

Delivered by Róisín Dunbar

Thank you, Mr. President,

CIVICUS welcomes this crucial update on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka which reflects our own monitoring of the challenging state for civil society and human rights defenders – especially those working on truth and justice - and the ongoing failure of the government to undertake meaningful reforms.

As noted in the report, there is ongoing surveillance, intimidation and harassment of activists involved in memorialization by security forces, especially in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Further, the Anti-Terrorism Bill designed to replace the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act - which has been used to criminalise and detain activists and protesters has yet to be revised to ensure it is consistent with international law. At the same time the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act No. 56 of 2007 – a law meant to protect human rights - has continued to be misused to stifle freedom of expression.

We are also concerned that peaceful protesters continued to be detained and met by disproportionate use of water cannons and tear gas.

CIVICUS also echos concerns from civil society groups about the proposed National Unity and Reconciliation Commission to deal with conflict abuses, which we do not believe will deliver truth, justice and reparations.

We call on the Sri Lankan government to withdraw all charges against activists and protesters facing court cases and to repeal all draconian legislation used to criminalise activists. We also call on the government to fully engage - instead of harassing victims of human rights violations and civil society activists supporting them - and deliver a transitional justice process that abides by Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

We thank you.

Civic space in Sri Lanka is rated as 'Obstructed' by the CIVICUS Monitor   



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