by Shamindra Ferdinando
Close on the heels of UN expert on transitional justice Pablo de Greiff warning the government of dire consequences unless the administration addressed accountability issues in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1, another top level UN delegation is due to arrive in Colombo on Dec. 4.
De Greiff delivered his warning at the UN compound in Colombo on Oct 23 with UN Resident Coordinator Una McCauley by his side.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) is expected to brief the media in Colombo on Dec 15 following a meeting with government leaders. The group will also visit the northern province.
Led by Australian Chair-Rapporteur Leigh Toomey, the WGAD comprises Jose Guevara (Mexico) and Elina Steinerte (Latvia). Two other members Setondji Adjovi (Benin) and Seong-Phil Hong (South Korea) are not on the visiting team.
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson and UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff lambasted Sri Lanka in July and Oct this year, respectively. In addition to them, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman was here in July.
A heated argument between Emmerson and the then Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC over unsubstantiated allegations made by the former contributed to the top UNPer’s unceremonious removal from cabinet in the following month.
Police and military sources told The Island that some Tamil politicians and interested parties continued to accuse the government of maintaining secret detention camps nine years after the conclusion of the war. Sources pointed out that in spite of no less a person than President Maithripala Sirisena assuring them, protests continued.
Foreign Ministry sources said the Special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression was scheduled to visit Colombo early next year.
Sources said visits were part of the process meant to scrutinize the government and to ensure the government adhered with its human rights obligations.
In response to a query by The Island, the Office of the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner has made available the following statement: “A three-member delegation from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will carry out an official visit to Sri Lanka from 4 to 15 December 2017 to assess the country’s situation regarding the deprivation of liberty.
José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Leigh Toomey and Elina Steinerte will visit a variety of places where people are held, including prisons, police stations and institutions for juveniles, migrants and people with psychosocial disabilities, to gather first-hand information which will form part of their overall assessment.
The delegation will visit Colombo as well as western, north-central, northern, eastern, southern and central provinces, where they will meet Government officials, civil society groups and other relevant stakeholders.
The experts will share their preliminary observations at a press conference on 15 December 2017 at 2 pm at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07. .
The Working Group will present its final report on the visit to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.”