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Lanka rejects Pillay's report

2013 Sep 27

The government today rejected the oral report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay which was presented to the UN Human Rights Council.

The government said Pillay had no mandate to call for an international investigation in Sri Lanka if the government fails to meet her March 2014 deadline to address human rights concerns.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinghe said that Sri Lanka does not require the urgent attention of the UN Human Rights Council.

“Sri Lanka needs to be encouraged and not impeded,” he said.

He said the government strongly refutes Pillay’s view that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remains critically important.

He made clear that notwithstanding Sri Lanka’s rejection of resolution 22/1, the Government has continued with its commitment to the reconciliation process within the framework of the National Plan of Action on the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC and had kept the Council informed on developments.

With regard to the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual harassment and abuse in the North as referred to in the ‘Update’, the Ambassador who deplored all such acts of violence against women and girls, said the inference that the presence of the military contributes to insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict affected areas is baseless and disingenuous. He noted that a comprehensive study undertaken of incidents of sexual offences which have occurred in the North had revealed that out of a total of 375 reported incidents during the conflict and in the post conflict periods (2007-2012), only 11 incidents (involving 17 security forces personnel) can be attributed to the security forces.

Noting that the government had at no time “downplayed” allegations of attacks against religious minorities, he strongly rejected accusations of “state patronage or protection given to extremist groups”. He said, such generalizations lack credibility. It is for this reason that the GOSL has requested specific information on such allegations. He added, that while the existing provisions in the Penal Code and the ICCPR Act criminalise ‘hate speech’, steps are underway to further strengthen the law against hate speech through a new amendment, under which those found guilty will be liable to imprisonment for a period not less than five years and not exceeding twenty years. He said Sri Lanka welcomes any technical assistance on the scope of such legislation from the OHCHR on the scope of such legislation. On the issue of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, he said the Government is fully committed to the protection of human rights defenders and had requested the OHCHR to provide it with specific information with regard to the allegations, so that they could verify their credibility. On complaints regarding harassment and/or assassination of journalists, he said whenever credible evidence is available, steps have been taken to prosecute the offenders.

He noted that while the ‘Update’ refers to the abolition of the Constitutional Council via the 18th Amendment, it must be remembered that the legislature enacted the 18th amendment to address the infirmities that had rendered the Constitutional Council non-operable. The fact that several Commissions and high offices have been operationalized since the 18th amendment and their robust functioning today, demonstrate its efficacy. Similarly, all constitutional stipulations inclusive of due process rights were followed in relation to the impeachment proceedings of the former Chief Justice. Sri Lanka reiterates that similar provisions exist in other countries in relation to the removal of higher judiciary, and the impeachment process was in keeping with the constitutional imperatives. In the above context, he said She Lanka strongly rejects the unsubstantiated claims in the Update that the rule of law and democratic institutions are being undermined and eroded.(Colombo Gazette)

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