Sri Lanka dismisses UN rights chief’s comments on 20A as unwarranted, pre-judgemental
Sri Lanka says the comments of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption.
This was highlighted in the statement delivered by Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dayani Mendis during the General Debate under Agenda Item 2 at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday (15).
The High Commissioner on Monday (14) said the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission.
The draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed, debated, following a complete democratic process, where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views, Sri Lanka noted in its statement.
Further, Sri Lanka stressed that the new government remains committed to the assurances given before this Council in February this year as the island nation withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1.
Sri Lanka also hit back at the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions. Bachelet had stated the “pardon given in March to a former Army sergeant convicted of participating in unlawful killings; appointments to key civilian roles of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity; and moves within the police and judiciary to thwart the investigation of such crimes, set a very negative trend.”
The full statement made by Sri Lanka during the General Debate is produced below:
Sri Lanka wishes to respond to the references made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Sri Lanka in the ‘Global Human Rights Update’ on 14 September 2020.
As this Council is aware, since February/March this year, the entire world was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis of a global scale, which had impacted many aspects of governance in many countries, and Sri Lanka was no exception.
We hope that this Council would appreciate that Sri Lanka while successfully containing the spread of COVID-19 through a balanced, multi-sectoral approach, and despite this challenge, held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully, last month, which the EU has acknowledged.
Sri Lanka made it clear even as it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1, that it will remain committed to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution, through a domestically designed and executed process in line with the Government’s policy framework. Sri Lanka would like to state further that the new Government which assumed office with the election of the new Parliament on 5 August remains committed to the assurances given before this Council in February this year.
The draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed, debated, following a complete democratic process, where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views. Therefore, the GoSL is of the view that High Commissioner’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption.
The GoSL wishes to state that the pardon to the former Army sergeant was granted in terms of the powers and provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
The Government rejects the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions. Sri Lanka has consistently refuted the credibility of these allegations and wishes to highlight that the domestic processes such as the LLRC and Paranagama Commissions that examined these allegations particularly with regard to the last stages of the conflict, have not found substantive evidence against any of the senior military officials referred to in this regard.
In the absence of any substantive proof, Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations on crimes or crimes against humanity made against these senior military officials are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.
In conclusion, with regard to allegations of surveillance and intimidation, the Government has already publicly refuted these allegations, and is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensure that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are investigated and prosecuted.
The prime focus of this Government is to ensure national security, and to uphold the rule of law and order in the country for all its citizens, with the aim of creating “an environment where any citizen can live freely without any fear for the safety of themselves and their families.”
In line with the above policy framework, the Government is committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, with a determination to uplift the lives of all its citizens and ensure that there is no threat to peace, reconciliation or development in Sri Lanka.