European Union

EU Says It Like It Is in Sri Lanka

October 28, 2009 Sri Lanka Campaign Comments Off

The EU Council has adopted the following conclusions:

1) The EU has continued to keep the situation in Sri Lanka under close attention and as stated before, wishes to engage with the Government of Sri Lanka in a meaningful dialogue towards a new relationship in which both sides seek to cooperate to resolve progressively the principal issues of concern. These include ensuring that the internally displaced persons (IDP), of whom there are believed to be more than a quarter of a million detained in closed camps have freedom of movement, are able to return to their homes without delay, that conditions inside the camps should fully comply with international standards, and that the Government of Sri Lanka and all communities in Sri Lanka make concrete efforts to overcome the divisions of the past and to move on to genuine reconciliation. Without such reconciliation, there can be no return to long-term security or prosperity.

2) The EU is particularly concerned by the continuing humanitarian crisis and the unacceptable situation for the IDPs still detained in closed camps. Indiscriminate detention of IDPs in Sri Lanka is a clear violation of international law. There is an urgent need for all IDPs remaining in the camps to be granted freedom of movement as well as full and unimpeded access to them by humanitarian actors, including for registration purposes, in order to provide humanitarian aid and protection. The IDP camps must be transferred to civilian authority. The EU urges the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that conditions in the camps in all respects are in accordance with internationally accepted standards. Overcrowding and lack of possibility to ensure the health and safety of the IDPs continues to be a source of serious concern. The monsoon season lends particular urgency to the situation.

3) The EU stresses the right to voluntary, safe, and dignified return for all IDPs. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the human rights and other constitutional rights of the IDPs are fully respected. All IDPs should be able to leave the camps when they wish and it should be possible for those who are able to find refuge with families and friends, or who are able to return to their homes in areas where demining is not required, to do so immediately. It is particularly important to ensure that people, and especially children, in the camps are reunited with their families. It is not acceptable that a proportion of those IDPs who have been able to return have not in fact been allowed to go back to their homes but have been placed in new camps which are also closed. The EU supports the call of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator for the government to present an overall plan for the IDP return process, which should be transparent and coherent, and based on the above fundamental humanitarian principles. The EU welcomes reports of a recent increased rate of return of IDPs and hopes this will continue.

4) The EU welcomes the recent high level visits of the UN to Sri Lanka. It expresses its support for strengthened UN involvement in Sri Lanka, including as regards its coordination, protection, and advocacy role.

5) As part of a dialogue, the EU stands ready to support projects for the return of IDPs. However, for such projects to be successful, it is important that they be carried out under certain conditions. These include freedom of movement for returnees, close cooperation with civilian local authorities to ensure that the returnees have sustainable livelihoods, and government support for those organisations who are implementing the projects, including the delivery of visas and unimpeded access. The EU underlines that support for reconstruction and development in the East and the North shall be based on progress in fulfilment of the above.

6) It is essential to put an end to impunity and to all human rights violations. The EU remains seriously concerned with continuing reports of abductions, disappearances, and extra-judicial killings. The EU is also gravely concerned about reports on severe harassment of journalists, restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. The EU urges the government to move as soon as possible towards lifting the Emergency Regulations and limiting the special powers conferred by the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Likewise, the EU repeats its call for possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by all actors to be subject to independent and credible inquiry. The EU believes that accountability is integral to the process of reconciliation.

The Council notes that the Commission recently completed its report into whether Sri Lanka has implemented three UN human rights conventions, which is required in the context of GSP+, and concluded that they have not been effectively implemented. The EU will decide what further steps to take in accordance with the GSP+ regulation. In parallel, the EU will maintain a dialogue with Sri Lanka on the steps necessary to address the problems highlighted by the Commission’s investigation, in order to effectively implement the conventions.

7) Genuine reconciliation requires an inclusive political process, which addresses the legitimate concerns of all communities in Sri Lanka. In this respect, the EU stands ready to support the Government and all other actors in Sri Lanka in their efforts to move forward with such a process immediately.”