Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States thanks High Commissioner Pillay for her recent report. We share many of the concerns she has highlighted. There is still much work to be done to ensure genuine reconciliation, justice, and accountability for alleged war crimes, as well as democratic governance and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka. The United States stands ready to assist the people of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan government in these efforts.
We remain deeply concerned regarding the targeting and violence against members of religious minorities, including Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, and attacks on places of worship. What efforts has the government made to prevent these attacks and hold perpetrators accountable?
Additionally, we echo the High Commissioner’s concerns regarding the increase of sexual harassment and violence against women in the former conflict zones, where military forces continue to wield undue influence in civilian life and in many cases operate with impunity.
We also note continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists, and others in civil society, including reprisals against those who meet with visiting diplomats and UN officials. Most recently, we saw the March 16 arrest and detention for over two days of well-known human rights activists Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan. Even after their release, Fernando and Father Mahesan have continued to face harassment from security forces.
We welcome the Government of Sri Lanka’s cooperation in facilitating recent visits by the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons, and encourage the government to respond positively to the offer of technical assistance made by the High Commissioner and requests for visits by special procedures mandate holders. We note that High Commissioner Pillay has encouraged the government to prioritize the visits of the special procedures mandate holders on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on minority issues. Can you explain the types of technical assistance OHCHR would be able to provide to the Government of Sri Lanka, if such assistance were accepted?
While the government has taken some steps to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) related to language and education, little progress has been made in the implementation of many LLRC recommendations, including key recommendations relating to justice and accountability for serious violations of Sri Lankan and international law such as indiscriminate killings of civilians. For all of the concerns noted, continued attention by the Human Rights Council is required.
- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva