Sri Lanka must act on rights issues: Human Rights Watch
Geneva, Oct 30 (IANS) UN members should urge Sri Lanka to act on accountability for abuses at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Thursday, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Sri Lanka must also be reminded of its international obligations to protect free expression and to stop intimidation of civil society and the media at its UPR at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, it said.
The UN scrutinizes the human rights record of each member state every four years. This review allows governments to scrutinize Sri Lanka's rights record and make recommendations for improvements.
Sri Lanka's last UPR, in 2008, occurred during the conflict between the government and the now vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The 25 years of war ended in May 2009.
The end stagees of the conflict was in particular marred by widespread allegations of killings and wanton attacks on civilians, mostly Tamils, in the northeast of Sri Lanka. Colombo has denied the charges.
"Governments should use the UPR to question Sri Lanka's deteriorating human rights situation and make recommendations for meaningful change," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"Of particular concern is the government's ongoing failure to hold anyone to account for numerous deadly abuses by both sides during Sri Lanka's long war."
In its 2012 submission for the review, Sri Lanka claims it has taken measures to implement the recommendations made in 2008 to "investigate all allegations of extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary killings".
Human Rights Watch, however, said there was no evidence that any such investigations had occurred.
The government also said it would strengthen grievance mechanisms and pursue investigations of attacks against media and civil society.
"Instead, those abuses have continued, with senior officials publicly threatening those who advocate for government accountability.
"The government has also failed to censure any official implicated in such acts of intimidation," the rights body said.
It demanded that the government lift restrictions on the media; stop intimidating human rights defenders; axe anti-terror laws; end torture and enforced disappearances; provide accountability for war crimes; and strengthen the National Human Rights Commission.