UN High Commissioner Calls for Accountability in Sri Lanka for Human Rights Violations and Economic Crimes

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the Sri Lankan government to implement credible accountability actions for the investigation and prosecution of past and ongoing human rights abuses and economic offenses.

Mr. Volker Türk expressed these concerns during his presentation on the human rights situations in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka at the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council.

Türk highlighted his ongoing worry about the consistent, reliable reports his Office has received regarding kidnappings, illegal detentions, and torture, including sexual violence, by Sri Lankan police and security forces. Some of these incidents allegedly occurred in 2023, predominantly in the country’s north and east.

He also voiced apprehensions about the recent nomination of new Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Deshabandu Tennakoon, in light of the Supreme Court’s determination of his involvement in the ‘torture of an individual in 2010.’

Despite the government’s proposal of draft legislation for a Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation, Türk stressed that the conditions for a credible truth-finding process are still lacking. He added, “Allegations of surveillance, harassment, and arrests of civil society members, journalists, victims, and individuals organizing memorial events for war victims by security forces continue to reach my Office.”

Türk underscored the necessity for wide-ranging reforms within the security sector.

Addressing the Online Safety Act, Anti-Terrorism Bill, Electronic Media Broadcasting Authority Bill, and NGO Supervision and Registration Bill, Türk shared his concerns about the possible extensive effects of these legislations on fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and democratic governance.

He remarked that Sri Lanka’s path to sustainable peace and reconciliation is not through ‘regressive legislation and authoritarian measures’, which only extend past human rights issues. The UN Human Rights Chief called for an immediate change in direction by the authorities.

He concluded by stating that Sri Lanka’s path to true reconciliation, enduring peace, and development lies in tackling the fundamental reasons behind the nation’s conflict and economic challenges, along with ensuring accountability.