Coming under mounting pressure from the UN treaty bodies and international human rights organisations, Sri Lanka on Tuesday admitted that the torture by the police and the government security forces is ongoing in the island nation, despite regime change two years ago.
Speaking at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that that his government took the allegations of continuing incidence of torture seriously and reiterated that the it maintained “a zero-tolerance policy towards torture”.
“Although the National Human Rights Commission has recently indicated to us that there is a downward spiral of incidents, even one incident of torture is one too many,” Minister Samaraweera said.
This is for the first time that Sri Lanka has publicly admitted that the torture is ongoing in the country.
His statement has come barely a couple of days after a father of two died in police custody in the South and the post-mortem report said that the cause of death due to multiple, extensive contusions of the body.
He, however, said that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Police Commission, the Ministry of Law & Order and other relevant agencies “are working together to prevent and combat torture”.
Reiterating the unity government’s commitment to implement the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 titled “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka” in October 2015, Samaraweera read out list of steps taken during the past 15 months, many of which were setting up sub committees and making constitutional reforms. This includes the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) act, which was passed in a haste without consulting the victims and still remains an act.
Describing the island-wide consultations on post-war reconciliation mechanisms as an “important undertaking that was successfully concluded during this period”, even though the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena and former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, who now heads of the government’s reconciliation office, have rejected its recommendations for foreign judges in a war crime tribunal.
“Over 7000 written submissions were received from persons from all walks of life, many of them victims of human rights violations who came forward to give their views. The Report of the Task Force is presently being studied in the context of designing the relevant Mechanisms for Truth-seeking, Reparations, Justice, and other reconciliation processes,” he said.
“We expect the draft legislation on the Truth-Seeking Commission to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next two months. Our resolve to bring justice to the victims of human rights violations remains firm”.
“The journey we have undertaken, arising from our commitments to our people and the mandates received at elections, is challenging. This may be a journey strewn with both success as well as some setbacks. In the face of roadblocks and other obstacles in the day to day world of realpolitik, there may have to be detours from time to time, but the destination and our resolve to walk the distance will remain unchanged. Our resolve to see the transitional justice process through, has not diminished,” Minister Samaraweera.