News

Arbitrary detention, reparation to put focus on Sri Lanka at UNHRC

By Easwaran Rutnam

 

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will discuss alleged arbitrary detention in Sri Lanka at its annual session next month.

While the final agenda of the 39th Session of the Council scheduled for next month has not been finalised, two reports on Sri Lanka have already been listed for discussion.

Accordingly the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Sri Lanka and the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence on his mission to Sri Lanka will be discussed.

The 30th Session of the UNHRC will take place from 10 September 2018 to 28 September 2018 in Geneva.

Following its visit to Sri Lanka last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had identified significant challenges to the enjoyment of the right to personal liberty in Sri Lanka, resulting in arbitrary detention across the country.

The experts recognize positive initiatives, including engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, as well as the recent accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

However, they said that further urgent action was required to give effect to Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as the commitments made by the Government in its Human Rights National Action Plan 2017-2021.

“The right to personal liberty has yet to be respected by law enforcement, security forces, judicial and other authorities,” the experts said in a statement, after a three-member delegation carried out an official visit to the country. The Group issued its preliminary findings on 15 December.

They said that current powers to deprive individuals of their liberty extended across a range of facilities, including police stations, prisons, open work camps, centres for juveniles and the elderly, mental health institutions and rehabilitation camps for former combatants, as well as those for drug addicts and people in vulnerable situations.

The experts called for urgent reforms to address problems including the excessive use of remand, a lack of effective alternatives to detention, an outdated legal framework and reliance on confessions, often extracted under torture or duress.

Court proceedings were affected by excessive and unjustified delays, while suspects remained in detention indefinitely, they said, adding that the rights to the presumption of innocence and due process were yet to be fully recognized.