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IBAHRI calls for increased vigilance

2014 Apr 03

With the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) having voted to open an international investigation into alleged war crimes by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls for increased vigilance by the international community following an escalation in threats to human rights defenders.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC commented, ‘The IBAHRI welcomes the adoption of the UNHRC resolution to establish an international investigation into war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. However, while the UNHRC sessions have been underway in Geneva, there has been a sharp increase in the number of reported cases of intimidation and detention of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. These reports are of great concern and we urge the international community to increase vigilance over the situation.’ She added, ‘Also, the IBAHRI has received disturbing in-country reports of defence lawyers being publicly linked to alleged LTTE revival activists. This is a worrying development contradicting the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which clearly states that “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions”’.

The UNHRC resolution passed on 27 March 2014, with a majority vote of 23 to 12, calls on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged human rights violations and related crimes by both sides during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Sternford Moyo said, ‘The UNHRC resolution is a major step forward in breaking the cycle of impunity and offering hope to victims on both sides of the conflict in Sri Lanka. However, in order to build sustainable peace and restore public confidence in the rule of law in the country, it is essential that the Government of Sri Lanka cooperates fully with the investigation, and we urge them to do so.’

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