The Cabinet of Ministers, on 6 March 2018, has approved the formulation of legislation by the Legal Draftsman, for the establishment by law of an Office for Reparations. Once the draft legislation with translations into local languages has been finalised, the draft Bill was expected to be gazetted shortly, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha told the 37th session of the Human Rights Council on Monday (March 19).
Office for Reparations is one of the four mechanisms prescribed by Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka on Oct 01, 2015. Of the four outfits, Sri Lanka recently established an Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office for Reparations is the second mechanism now expected to be set up.
They’ll be followed by a truth-seeking commission and a special court with independent counsel.
Addressing Geneva sessions at the adoption of the final report of Sri Lanka’s review under the 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review that took place in November 2017, Ambassador Aryasinha said that out of the 253 recommendations that Sri Lanka had received during the very constructive dialogue last November, Sri Lanka accepted 177 recommendations in addition to 12 voluntary pledges.
“We have also taken due note of the remaining recommendations made by member states, and we express appreciation to all delegations for their active participation in Sri Lanka’s review and their valuable recommendations.
“Sri Lanka is a strong supporter of the UPR process. Its peer review nature allows for open and constructive engagement that encourages countries to address important issues relating to human rights, and to learn from each other. Sri Lanka remains firm in its commitment to this process. We also remain committed to constructive engagement with the UN systems and procedures as well as engagement with individual member states in promoting human rights locally and internationally.
“In the 4 months that have passed since Sri Lanka’s review in November last year, we have already made progress on the implementation of some of the recommendations.
“On Dec 05, 2017, Sri Lanka acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and designated the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka as the National Preventive Mechanism. We have requested the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to liaise with the Subcommittee to obtain the advice and technical expertise required for the effective and efficient operationalisation of the National Preventive Mechanism.
“Legislation to give effect locally, to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was enacted by the passage of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill in the Sri Lanka Parliament on 7 March 2018. This criminalises Enforced Disappearance.
“On the recommendations made by the Constitutional Council as per the Office on Missing Persons Act, the President appointed the Chairperson and Commissioners for the Office on Missing Persons on 28 February 2018, making the Office fully operational. At a meeting with the Chairperson and Commissioners on 28 February, the President assured them of the fullest support of the Government to ensure the effective functioning of the Office. We have circulated among delegations, the initial statement made by the Chairperson of the Office on Missing Persons on 12 March 2018. Sri Lanka Rupees 1.4 billion (approximately 9 million USD) has been allocated in the National Budget for 2018, for the Office on Missing Persons. The Constitutional Council, in its selection process, has ensured that the Chairperson and Commissioners represent a cross-section of society, with individuals who possess experience in human rights as activists, ex-public servants and professionals, as well as a family member of a missing person.
“Progress has been made in the drafting of new Counter Terrorism Legislation. We envisage a Counter Terrorism Act that conforms to human rights safeguards and other international standards and we expect the draft legislation to be gazetted for tabling in Parliament for consideration, once the established procedures including translation into local languages are completed, shortly.
“The Cabinet of Ministers, on 6 March 2018, approved the formulation of legislation by the Legal Draftsman, for the establishment by law of an Office for Reparations. Once the draft legislation with translations into local languages is finalised, the draft Bill is expected to be gazetted shortly.
“For a country that has experienced conflict, that now seeks to take measures to forge reconciliation and ensure non-recurrence, Sri Lanka’s accession on 13 December 2017 to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) and accession on 1 March 2018 to the Convention on Cluster Munitions are important steps.
“Sri Lanka has been and continues to engage actively with UN systems and procedures and across all agencies at all levels.
“Sri Lanka received the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for an official country visit from 4-15 December 2017.
“In January 2018, Sri Lanka participated in the review on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“For the effective implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2017-2021 which was shared with all delegations in November during Sri Lanka’s review, a three-tier mechanism has now been established to regularly monitor progress being made by all the relevant line ministries and agencies, and to give necessary guidance and direction. All action points specified in the plan are being incorporated into the action plans of the relevant ministries and agencies.
“This Council is aware of the recent incidents that took place in certain parts of my country targeting members of the Muslim community who represent an integral part of the pluralistic society of Sri Lanka.
“These cowardly acts instigated by some organised groups and individuals who have no place in the democratic, pluralistic society of our country. Such acts go against our shared vision of a Sri Lanka where equal rights and rule of law are guaranteed for all. We are determined to take action against all perpetrators of these incidents in accordance with the due process of the law. Victim compensation processes have already commenced; and arrests have been made as well.
“As a result of these incidents, Mr. President, where it was discovered that social media and messaging platforms were being used not only to incite and spread hate and false messages but also to organise attacks, the Government was compelled to impose temporary restrictions on the use of social media. All these restrictions have now been lifted. The Government as a result of this experience has now entered into active engagement with social media operators, particularly Facebook, to work on the prevention of hate speech. The emergency regulations which the Government was compelled to impose on 06 March 2018 as a measure to protect communities were rescinded on 17 March 2018.
“We firmly recognise that the UPR should not be a mere three-and-a-half hour dialogue that takes place every four years. Therefore, with technical assistance from the OHCHR, we are already in the process of exploring the best possible mechanism to put in place locally, for regular reporting and follow-up of recommendations emanating from the UPR process as well as other processes including the treaty body reporting and follow-up process. We appreciate the assistance in this regard that the OHCHR has offered us.