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Instances of intimidation, harassment and surveillance continue: UN Core Group on SL

The Core Group on Sri Lanka at the UN on Tuesday said instances of intimidation, harassment and surveillance continue, including threats to families of disappeared persons in Sri Lanka.

UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French said this in a statement delivered to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Ambassador French delivered the statement on behalf of Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, the Core Group on Sri Lanka. She said they continue to hear concerns about an increasingly difficult operating environment for civil society and human rights groups in Sri Lanka.

“Individuals are detained indefinitely without appearance before court, such as lawyer Hejaz Hizbullah. Sri Lanka’s dynamic and diverse civil society lies at the heart of its vibrant democracy. The Core Group expresses its strong solidarity with Sri Lanka’s civil society, and human rights defenders, and calls on the government to take all steps necessary to allow them to operate freely,” she said.

She also said the Core Group pays tribute to the people of Sri Lanka and to all those involved in delivering safe and peaceful Parliamentary elections, despite the challenges of Covid-19.

“Next March, the Council will consider an important report by the High Commissioner, on human rights, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

Specifically, it will consider the steps taken to implement resolution 30/1, through which, in 2015, the Council created a consensual framework to help Sri Lanka heal the wounds of its past and to address unresolved serious violations and abuses documented by the High Commissioner.

This framework was renewed twice by this Council by consensus and with the explicit support of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has been clear to this Council that it no longer supports resolution 30/1. The Core Group, once again, reiterates its profound disappointment at this development,” Ambassador French said.

She said the Sri Lankan Government has also stated its continual commitment to fostering reconciliation, justice and peaceful coexistence among Sri Lanka’s diverse communities.

“It has suggested that a new domestic process will take this agenda forward. While we appreciate this continued commitment, such processes previously have regrettably proven insufficient to tackle impunity and deliver real reconciliation. This Council will want to pay particular attention to how the new approach, will differ from these previous attempts and put the victims of conflict at its heart.

The future of the Independent Commissions including the Office on Missing Persons and Office on Reparations will be particularly important,” she said.

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