Govt. to formally respond on lack of representation
Govt. slams OHCHR process; ‘Unilateral activity’, says Keheliya
OHCHR hopes for continued engagement and visits
Any request for country visit to be vetted by Govt/Foreign Min.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is scheduled to make a formal response to the decision by the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to not have any GoSL representation in its dedicated investigative and monitoring team of international professionals based in Geneva, Switzerland, which is tasked with monitoring Sri Lanka’s human rights situation and implementing the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution against Sri Lanka.
The OHCHR recently stated that it is considering the swift implementation of the provisions of the fifth post-war Resolution on Sri Lanka. This is said to include the collection, preservation, and analysis of information in connection with alleged human rights abuses and violations during and after the war.
Accordingly, the OHCHR is assembling a team of dedicated Geneva-based international professionals to monitor Sri Lanka.
However, as mentioned by the UN OHCHR Spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell to The Sunday Morning when contacted in early April, the OHCHR has decided to omit any form of representation from the GoSL in this team.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said however that this decision by the OHCHR to omit a representative of Sri Lanka in the said investigative team is still at the proposal stage, adding that the Government will present a formal response to this proposed decision shortly.
Further, citing the UN’s budgetary processes, the OHCHR had stated that this team will most likely be based in Geneva.
Questioning the efficacy of such an operation, Mass Media Minister Rambukwella said: “The practicality of its functions should be questioned. Many of the people named are alien to the culture and background of Sri Lanka. They will be working on documents and information given to them by a party who we have no faith in. This is a unilateral activity at best.”
However, UN HR Office in Geneva Spokesperson Marta Hurtado, told The Sunday Morning yesterday (24) that the OHCHR has been engaging with the GoSL in relation to the implementation of past Resolutions of the UNHRC, and hopes that this can continue in relation to the present Resolution.
Hurtado also revealed that the OHCHR would “request visits for this purpose in line with the regular procedures”.
When queried as to whether the team will be granted permission to visit Sri Lanka if they seek to do so, Minister Rambukwella said that this decision will be made once it goes through the respective governmental hierarchy and the Foreign Ministry, before settling on the course of action to be taken.
When questioned about the progress of evidence gathering, monitoring, and post-Resolution responsibilities, Hurtado said that the monitoring of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka is ongoing, and that there will now be a process to approve the budget accompanying the Resolution. Hurtado also mentioned that the OHCHR will keep the GoSL and all stakeholders informed about the process.
Accordingly, further information about the mandate and how to submit information will be made available once the new team becomes operational. Commenting further on the team, Hurtado said: “Once the new team is operational, it will review all available information and set the priorities for further work.”
Sri Lanka’s fifth post-war Resolution, seeking to promote reconciliation, accountability, and human rights, presented by the UN Core Group on Sri Lanka, was adopted at the 46th UNHRC Session in Geneva on 23 March this year.
The OHCHR is expected to present an oral update on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to the UNHRC at its 48th Session, while a written update is due at the 49th Session, along with a comprehensive report at the 51st Session.