48th UNHRC Regular Session: Core Group ‘disappointed’ on accountability ‘regression’ 

  • Highlights case on alleged youth abduction by Navy 

BY Pamodi Waravita 

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Simon Manley, in his statement yesterday (14) on behalf of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the 48th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Regular Session, said that they are disappointed to see a regression of the limited progress made on accountability on key emblematic cases. 

“Recent developments in the case involving the disappearance of 11 youths in the 2008-2009 period is of particular concern,” Manley said.

The Core Group on Sri Lanka comprises Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro and the UK. 

Manley made these comments in reference to the Attorney General (AG), President’s Counsel Sanjay Rajaratnam’s recent decision to temporarily not proceed with the charges against former Navy Commander and Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, as the Court of Appeal had, in connection with a writ petition filed by Karannagoda, issued an interim order halting the hearing of the charges levelled against him. Karannagoda was named as a defendant in the Colombo Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar case filed against a group of Naval intelligence officers pertaining to the alleged abduction and enforced disappearance of 11 youths in Colombo in 2008 and 2009. 

Manley also called on the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to ensure the political independence of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office for Reparations. 

Commenting on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979, Manley urged the GoSL to bring its counterterrorism legislation in line with international human rights obligations and raised concerns about the continued detention of human rights Lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah and poet Ahnaf Jazeem under the Act. 

The European Union (EU) Parliament, earlier this year, also called on the GoSL to repeal the PTA and the EU Commission to consider the temporary withdrawal of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade concession from Sri Lanka if it is not done.

“We call on Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and remain ready to support the Government on the implementation of Resolution 46/1,” Manley stressed.

Earlier this year, the UNHRC passed Resolution 46/1, which recognises the importance of preserving evidence relating to violations of human rights in Sri Lanka in order to advance accountability, and as such, a call has been made to implement an “evidence preserving” mechanism in the country. It was adopted on 23 March at the UNHRC with 22 votes in favour of it and 11 votes in opposition while 14 Member States abstained from voting.

In her oral update on 13 September, Bachelet said that her Office has already developed an information and evidence repository of nearly 120,000 individual items which are already held by the UN, and that they will begin information gathering as much as possible this year.

However, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, in his response to Bachelet, said that external initiatives embarked without the cooperation of the State in question cannot achieve their goals and are subject to politicisation.