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Military engagement in commercial activities in North-East prevails – UN

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Updated: 06:40 GMT, Jun 28, 2016 | Published: 05:56 GMT, Jun 28, 2016 |
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that military engagement in commercial activities, including farming and tourism still exist in the North, adding,  during his visit to displaced communities in Jaffna, the High Commissioner observed that the lack of transparency and information is feeding new levels of frustration and disenchantment.

He has concluded that overall the steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement some of the key commitments made in UN Resolution last year are encouraging but more rapid and sustained progress could have been made on some other issues.

“Overall, the Human Rights Council should be encouraged thus far by the steps that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken to implement some of the key commitments made in Resolution 30/1, and the consultations and preparations now underway to further elaborate and design the transitional justice mechanisms,” said the advanced version of the High Commissioner’s oral update released on Monday (June 27).

The report on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka listed the restoration of the Constitutional Council, an independent Human Rights Commission and the ratification of the Disappearances Convention (CED) as important achievements that “will leave a legacy for the future.”

The report expressed hope that once established, the new Office of Missing Persons will provide at least a form of immediate redress for the families of the disappeared.

“Nonetheless, the establishment of full transitional justice mechanisms will be needed to provide a comprehensive response to past human rights violations and ensure that they do not reccur,” it said.

“The early momentum established in investigating emblematic cases must be sustained, as early successful prosecutions would mark a turning point from the impunity of the past. Continuing allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture and sexual violence, as well as more general military surveillance and harassment, must be swiftly addressed, and the structures and institutional culture that promoted those practices be dismantled, to show there will be no tolerance for practices of the past,” it added.

“Inevitably, the transformative process on which Sri Lanka is embarked will take time. Dealing with the multiple tracks of constitutional reform, transitional justice, economic recovery and security sector reform would tax the capacity of any government,” the UN rights chief explained.

“The Government has also continued to take some important symbolic steps towards promoting reconciliation and changing the majoritarian political culture. In November 2015, the Government de-listed a number of Tamil diaspora organisations and individuals who had been proscribed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The decision to sing the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil on Independence Day in February 2016 for the first time since the early 1950s was a powerful gesture, followed the next day by the reciprocal visit of the Tamil Chief Minister of the Northern Province to a Buddhist temple in Jaffna,” it continued.

“The Government has also not moved fast enough with other tangible measures that would help to build confidence among victims and minority communities.  In 2015, the Government made initial progress in the identification and release of civilian land in the North and East still held by the military, with 3,136 acres returned to some 2,200 families.  In 2016, the Armed forces have reportedly released further 2,652 acres, mostly in Jaffna and Mannar areas,” the report noted.