A special UN rapporteur on Friday criticised Sri Lanka for its “painfully slow” reconciliation process with the minority Tamils and expressed concern over the “virtual halt” in the implementation of the UNHRC resolution on rights accountability. Concluding his four-day visit to Sri Lanka to assess its progress in transitional justice at the end of the separatist campaign by the LTTE, special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson described the island nation as one of the worst countries for the practice of torture.
“Despite the shocking prevalence of the practice of torture, there is a lack of effective investigations,” he said airing his displeasure over the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The PTA has been criticised by Tamil and rights activists as it allows indefinite detention of people without charges. During the over three-decade armed campaign by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, many rebels were held under the PTA.
Referring to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on rights accountability, Emmerson said “progress in achieving the key goals set out in in the resolution is not only slow but seems to have ground to a virtual halt”. The resolution calls on the UNHRC to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was granted 18 months by the UNHRC resolution in October 2015 to initiate a credible investigation into the abuses committed during the civil war with the LTTE. It has sought more time to deliver on the accountability mechanism. Emmerson said Sri Lanka has already spent four months of the two-year extension to implement the resolution. “But very little progress has been shown.”
He said Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the country’s Army chief Mahesh Senanayake have both assured him of continued measures for transitional justice. According to the special UN rapporteur, 81 people were currently held under the PTA, 70 of them have been in detention without a trial for over five years and more than 12 had been without trial for over 10 years.
He said the PTA impacted the minority Tamil community and urged the government “not to allow the transitional justice process to be diverted by retrograde elements in the security establishment and their allies in the government.”