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UN High Commissioner Urges Sri Lankan Government to Address Human Rights Violations

In a notable address during the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council, Mr. Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called upon the Sri Lankan government to implement credible accountability measures to thoroughly investigate and prosecute both past and ongoing human rights violations and economic crimes.

Expressing deep concern, Türk specifically addressed recurring and credible accounts of abductions, unlawful detentions, and torture, including sexual violence, reportedly perpetrated by the Sri Lankan police and security forces. Notably, some of these incidents are alleged to have occurred in 2023, primarily in the northern and eastern regions of the country.

The UN Human Rights Chief raised apprehensions about the recent appointment of the new Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Deshabandu Tennakoon, despite the Supreme Court’s findings linking him to the ‘torture of an individual in 2010.’

Türk emphasized the absence of a conducive environment for a credible truth-seeking process, despite the government’s introduction of draft legislation for a Commission for Truth, Unity, and Reconciliation. He highlighted ongoing allegations of surveillance, harassment, and arrests of civil society representatives, journalists, victims, and organizers of events commemorating war victims by security forces. This, Türk asserted, underscores the imperative need for comprehensive security sector reforms.

Commenting on legislative developments, Türk expressed reservations about the potential far-reaching impact of laws such as the Online Safety Act, Anti-Terrorism Bill, Electronic Media Broadcasting Authority Bill, and the NGO Supervision and Registration Bill on fundamental rights, freedoms, the rule of law, and democratic governance.

Warning against regressive laws and authoritarian approaches, Türk stressed that sustainable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka could only be achieved by addressing the root causes of the country’s conflict and economic crisis, and ensuring accountability. He urged the authorities to promptly reverse this trend for the greater benefit of the nation.

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