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U.S. Statement at the UPR of Sri Lanka
November 1, 2012

U.S. Statement at the UPR of Sri Lanka
14th Session – November 1, 2012

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Note: An abbreviated version of this text was delivered at the Universal Periodic Review due to time constraints.

The United States welcomes H.E. Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of H.E. The President on Human Rights. and the Sri Lankan delegation to the UPR Working Group.

We note steps taken by the government of Sri Lanka to resettle IDPs, foster economic growth, improve infrastructure, and develop a National Action Plan for implementing a number of recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

We remain concerned by the consolidation of executive power, including the passage of the 18th amendment, and that no agreement has been reached on political devolution.  Former conflict zones remain militarized, and the military continues to encroach upon daily civilian and economic affairs. The Ministry of Defense has controlled the NGO secretariat since 2010.

Serious human rights violations continue, including disappearances, torture, extra-judicial killings, and threats to freedom of expression.  Opposition figures have been harassed, detained, and prosecuted.  There have been no credible investigations or prosecutions for attacks on journalists and media outlets.  In the past 30 days, a judge who questioned executive interference in the judiciary was severely beaten in broad daylight by multiple assailants and derogatory posters appeared in Colombo threatening the director of an NGO challenging a government bill that would weaken provincial councils.  No arrests have been made.

Bearing in mind these concerns, the United States makes the following recommendations:

  1. Implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC, including the removal of the military from civilian functions; creation of mechanisms to address cases of the missing and detained; issuance of death certificates; land reform; devolution of power; and disarming paramilitaries.
  2. Transfer NGO oversight to a civilian institution and protect freedom of expression and space for civil society to operate, by inter alia investigating and prosecuting attacks on media personnel and human rights defenders.
  3. End impunity for human rights violations and fulfill legal obligations regarding accountability by initiating independent and transparent investigations, which meet international best practices, into alleged violations of international law and hold those found culpable to account.
  4. Especially in light of today’s news of the efforts to impeach the Chief Justice, strengthen judicial independence by ending government interference with the judicial process, protecting members of the judiciary from attacks, and restoring a fair, independent, and transparent mechanism to oversee judicial appointments.