Today we publish a new report, ‘Abandoned Promises?’, looking at the current state of play for human rights in Sri Lanka, and evaluating the progress that the government has made towards addressing the legacy of the island’s brutal civil war, during which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed.
Our findings – based on media reports, assessments by UN human rights bodies, and input from local activists – paint a troubling picture. Four and a half years after the government pledged action at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the overwhelming majority of its 25 key commitments remain mostly or completely unachieved.
Even more troubling, this week Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that Sri Lanka would seek to “withdraw” from the HRC process; a process which the Sri Lankan government has supported (at least on paper) since October 2015. While it remains unclear at this stage what exactly that announcement might mean – an issue we looked at in a recent Twitter thread – it will no doubt come as yet another blow to efforts to obtain truth and justice for the victims and survivors of atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka.
In this context it is vital that members of the international community remain vigilant – and that they maintain a firm and principled stance on the need to deal with the past in Sri Lanka. A key test will be how they respond when the HRC opens for its 43rd session in Geneva next week.
Our report, the latest instalment in our #KeepThePromise campaign, calls on member of the international community to remain engaged at the HRC and ensure a continuation of the process beyond its expiry in March 2021. However, we also want to see them being much more proactive elsewhere: enhancing efforts to pursue alleged war criminals abroad, denouncing the crackdown on human rights activists that is currently underway in Sri Lanka, and reviewing cooperation with the government on aid, trade and security.
You can read our full list of recommendations here. For coverage of events next week, including a statement to the HRC from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday morning and an update from the UN Human Rights chief on Thursday afternoon, you can follow us over on Twitter.