The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sri Lanka, during which HRC member States are reviewing its human Rights practices, took place in Geneva on 1st November 2012 and the report including the final conclusions was adopted on Monday 5th. Despite specific States recommendations, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) once again refused to render the perpetrators of the killing of 17 ACF aid workers accountable for their crime.
On August 4th, 2006, armed men stormed ACF’s offices in Muttur, forced 17 staff members on to their knees and executed each of them with a bullet to the back of the head. This massacre accounts for the most serious crime ever committed against humanitarian workers.
Impunity has become institutionalized and systematized in Sri Lanka. ACF has followed for two years the alleged investigations into the Muttur massacre and can testify that the judicial independence and impartiality have been undermined to the point where it is no longer possible to receive redress or justice for human rights violations.
The UPR was the opportunity for member States to ask questions about the progress made in Sri Lanka since 2008 regarding the protection of Human rights; and to make recommendations for improvement. ACF and Speak submitted a report to the Human Rights Council in April and was there to observe the session. Despite many remarks and recommendations about accountability made during the review, ACF and Speak are disappointed to see that once again the GoSL demonstrated a total lack of willingness to hold the perpetrators of the crime to account.
A clear example of the refusal of GoSL to actually take concrete steps against impunity was the rejection of all recommendations made by France during the review. France had recommended that GoSL “create a credible investigative mechanism into the murders consisting of independent professional investigators leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators”, but this was simply rejected by Sri Lanka.
Beyond the immediate disappointment, it is yet another proof of the utter disregard of the GoSL for the fundamental rights of the victims. Without involvement of the international community, justice will never be served in Sri Lanka.
It falls on the international community to push the GoSL for accountability and to take concrete measures regarding impunity.
ACF and Speak urges UN Member States to follow suit. Accountability in Sri Lanka will not be achieved unless the international community adopts a more proactive role and sets up an investigative mechanism that respects established norms of international law.
States’ patience about Sri Lanka’s progress in upholding Human Rights is wearing thin, especially as Sri Lanka missed once again the opportunity to prove its good faith.
In March 2013, at the Plenary Session of the Human Rights Council, States will review the March 2012 Resolution and decide of the next steps to take regarding Sri Lanka. ACF and Speak call on Member States to support the demand of an international and independent investigation into grave violations of Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.