Sri Lanka Must Step Up Progress on Transitional Justice, UN Expert Finds

Sri Lanka Must Step Up Progress on Transitional Justice, UN Expert Finds

by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 23, 2017

GENEVA / COLOMBO (23 October 2017) – The Government of Sri Lanka has not made sufficient progress in fulfilling its commitments on transitional justice and related reform processes, a UN human rights expert has concluded after an official visit to the country.

Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said delays in the implementation of commitments undermined trust and raised questions about the Government’s determination to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice programme.

“These delays contribute to the further politicization of discussions on transitional justice,” he said in a statement at the end of his mission.

“Challenges remain and the slow progress, even on pre-conditions for transitional justice, seriously erodes trust in the Government’s capacity to decisively move forward with reforms,” noted the Special Rapporteur, urging the authorities to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, demilitarise the North and East, resolve remaining land disputes, and cease harassment and surveillance by security and intelligence personnel of human rights defenders and social actors, especially women.

Mr. de Greiff noted the government’s positive progress on areas including constitutional reform, creating an Office of Missing Persons and a consultations task force, opening up space for public debate on transitional justice, the release of some lands, and initial efforts to strengthen the judiciary.

“All of these steps can contribute to a comprehensive transitional justice programme,” the expert said.

But the expert urged the Government to go further, and to create a plan setting out how truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence would be delivered as a state policy.  He said this approach had the potential to contribute to social integration.

“Transitional justice benefits all Sri Lankans,” the Special Rapporteur stressed, urging the Government not to deprive its citizens of the benefits of a comprehensive transitional justice process, including accountability.

“Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture and has a unique opportunity to prevent further cycles of violence by determined action,” Mr. de Greiff said. “This is the Government’s duty, and the right of Sri Lanka’s society.”

During his 14-day mission, the Special Rapporteur met the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as officials from a number of government ministries and departments, political parties and independent institutions.  He also met victims of human rights abuses, as well as ethnic and religious communities and civil society groups.

Mr. de Greiff’s successor will present a detailed report on his mission to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.


 Pablo de Greiff (Colombia) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 as the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. He has extensive professional and academic expertise on transitional justice issues, including on the four measures under this mandate. He is currently Director of the Project on Transitional Justice of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law. Mr. de Greiff has worked with different transitional justice bodies across the world and has provided advice to a number of Governments and multilateral institutions on international policy, transitional justice, and on the linkages between justice, security and development. He has also collaborated with numerous NGOs working with victims in many countries. He was the Director of Research at the International Center for Transitional Justice from 2001 to 2014

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human RightsCountry Page: Sri Lanka

For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
During the mission
: Mr. Naveed Ahmed (+41 79 444 4537 /
After the mission
: Mr. Naveed Ahmed (+41 22 9289477 / and Ms. Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 /

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 /  

HRW: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Concerning Sri Lanka

by Human Rights Watch, New York, October 19, 2017

Concerning Sri Lanka

Joint Civil Society Submission to the UN UPR by Joint Civil Society, posted on Centre for Policy Analysis, March 2017

Joint Civil Society Submission to the UN UPR

by Joint Civil Society, posted on Centre for Policy Analysis, March 2017



…The years 2012-2014 witnessed continued authoritarianism, weakening of the rule of law,
shrinking of space for human rights and dissent and the exacerbation of the culture of
impunity. With the regime change of January 2015 and the formation of a government by
the two main political parties on a platform of governance, some reforms took place2
but surveillance, intimidation and militarization persist. Two years into this government,
there is growing disillusionment regarding the slow rate of progress and the number of
unimplemented promises. Continued attacks against religious minorities and the inability
or unwillingness to hold perpetrators to account for rights violations have contributed to
apprehension about the prevailing culture of impunity. Thus, whilst certain improvements
are recorded in this document, attention is also drawn to the deep structural and
protection issues requiring immediate attention…

Transitional Justice
30. Sri Lanka‘s transitional justice (TJ) commitments stem from both the LLRC Report‘s
recommendations and the Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 of 2015. Although
Sri Lanka undertook to expeditiously implement the National Action Plan on the LLRC
recommendations in the previous UPR cycle, many delays were evidenced, as with the
implementation of Resolution 30/1.

31. In response to the LLRC‘s call for accountability, several partisan fact finding
entities147 were appointed in order to investigate allegations of atrocities during the last
stages of the armed conflict.  Subsequently, the GoSL appointed Paranagama
Commission formally rejected the allegation that any ‘system crimes‘ took place during
the last stages of Sri Lanka‘s war, albeit through gross misapplication of the law of armed
. Within the justice system, lower level officers have occasionally been tried
for wartime atrocities under the regular criminal procedure, with several being
acquitted by predominantly Sinhalese speaking juries. Although an interim report of
the Commission‘s first mandate was submitted in August 2015, the Final Report remains
unavailable despite an extension of the deadline for submission.

32. In spite of Resolution 30/1 underscoring the importance of foreign participation in a
future judicial mechanism, government personnel have retreated from their early espousal
of a hybrid judicial mechanism.  They now back a complete exclusion of foreign
judges and the restriction of foreign participation technical assistance, only.

33. According to the 2016 interim report of the Consultation Task Force (CTF) on
Reconciliation Mechanisms, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Bill, which was
passed in August 2016 was preceded by inadequate public consultations, leading to a
dearth in public information about the OMP and its powers/functions. Measures to
operationalize the Office have failed to materialize, despite the appointment of a Special
Committee in September to monitor its formation and a clear promise to operationalize
it in January. Currently, the government is taking steps to repeal provisions that are
indispensible for the OMP‘s future success. Despite this general negative trend, the
submission of the Final CTF Report in January 2017, lends hope that
meaningful/widespread consultations have taken place in relation to the remaining
transitional justice mechanisms. However, the process of establishing even the less
controversial Truth Commission and Office for Reparations has been painstakingly
slow. 162 No timeframe for the establishment of the Office on Reparations has been
given163 nor is there any mention of a comprehensive reparations package and policy,
despite many past Commissions of Inquiry recommending compensation for victims of
human rights violations. Psychosocial support for victims continues to be a major issue
that requires attention.

34. Sri Lanka has also not adequately fulfilled its undertaking to introduce effective
security sector reforms. The government claims that the Ministry of Defense has issued
directions to security sector personnel that violations of human rights will be punished.
However, no public records of these directions exist.  Furthermore, despite the
enactment of a Victim and Witness Protection Act in March 2015, fatal flaws in the
substantive law and problems in the Act‘s implementation have hampered its overall
effectiveness. Finally, the GoSL is yet to publicly unveil a transitional justice strategy
with timelines indicating how they plan to proceed with implementing their

35. Despite the GoSLs commitment to return land occupied by Military to their rightful
owners and take meaningful steps towards ending military involvement in civilian
activities, a heavy military presence and incessant military involvement in civiliancommercial
activities continues to hamper any return to normalcy in the country‘s North
and East. Significant tracts of land continue to be occupied across the area. As at March
2017, close to 8000 acres of private and State land, in the three districts of Jaffna,
Mullativu and Kilinochchi remain occupied by the security forces, though exact figures
of land occupation is unknown due to no comprehensive land mapping having taken
place. Senior civilian and military officials also remain highly defensive about
demilitarization and land release when questioned with reports indicating that
government entities are also a problem regarding land issues in the North and East.
At present, some lands are being released at a slow pace, albeit only due to continuous
protests. The slow pace is on account of ad-hoc orders of the Executive and
bureaucratic delays.

36. Military involvement in civilian-commercial activities continue unabated and on a large
scale. The Civil Security Department, which is organized and run by the Sri Lankan army
is involved in a number of civilian activities in the North such as agriculture, education,
running of poultry farms, garment factories, shops and canteens.180 The Sri Lankan army
is directly involved in agricultural activities in Palaly, whilst the military also has
shops, canteens and hotels in various locations in the North and East.

Internally Displaced Persons
37. The last four years have seen significant changes in the numbers of Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs). Nonetheless, there continue to be serious obstacles, particularly relating
to omissions and failings by the State, that thwart the achievement of durable solutions
for those affected by displacement, currently living within the country and outside. The
GoSL recently adopted a new policy, setting out a framework for acknowledging the
problems relating to displacement and durable solutions but the lack of implementation of
this policy has raised fears that this merely a façade to impress the international
community rather than a real plan of action.

38. Accurate statistics on IDPs remains a contested issue.  One of the main obstacles
thwarting the return of IDPs is the occupation of land by the military. There is no
public process for verifying military occupation of private and public land. Northern
Muslims who were forcibly expelled by the LTTE in 1990 have attempted to return but
the process of return, reconstruction and reintegration has proved difficult. In addition
to the war displaced, there are other populations affected by displacement including
development induced particularly in Colombo…

1. Centre for Peace Studies
2. Centre for Policy Alternatives (C.P.A)
3. Community Education Centre (C.E.C)
4. Deshodaya
5. Disability Organizations Joint Front (D.O.J.F)
6. Diversity and Solidarity Trust
7. Eastern United Women Organisation (E.U.W.O)
8. Equal Ground
9. Families of Disappearances
10. Family Rehabilitation Centre
11. Federation of Eastern Muslim Civil Organisation
12. Free Media Movement
13. Human Development Organisation (HDO)
14. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Gampaha.15. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Hambantota.
16. Human Rights First Aid Centre, Matara.
17. International Center for Ethnic Studies
18. International Movement Against All forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
19. Janawabodaya
20. Mannar Women’s Development Federation
21. Mother and Daughters of Lanka (MDL)
22. Muslim Women‘s Development Trust, Puttalam.
23. National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
24. National Christian Evangelical Alliance (NCEASL)
25. National Peace Council
26. Organization for Elankai Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERRCeylon)
27. Rights Now Collective for Democracy
28. Right to Life Human Rights Center
29. Rule of Law Forum
30. Rural Development Foundation
31. Rural Women‘s Front
32. Samadanam
33. Sarvodaya
34. Social Development Service Foundation (S.D.S.F)
35. South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (S.A.C.L.S)
36. United Religious Initiative (URI)
37. Uva Wellassa Women Organisation
38. Videeye Wirodaya
39. War Child Holland
40. Women’s Action Network
41. Women‘s Centre
42. Women‘s Political Academy (W.P.A)
43. Young Out Here

1. Ameer M. Faaiz
2. Anthony Vinoth
3. B.A.H.Fernando
4. Barbara Peiris
5. Buddhika Mendis
6. Deega Herath
7. Deekshya Illangasinghe
8. Deshakeerthi Dr.Muhammed Muzzammil Cader
9. Dhanushka Rajaratnam
10. Dr. Joe William
11. Dr. Y.L.M.Yoosuff
12. Dr.S.L.Riyas
13. H.L. Achala Piyumantha
14. Jayalal Anthony
15. Jeganathan Thatparan
16. Dr. Jehan Perera
17. K.J. Brito Fernando
18. Kasunjith Satanarachchi
19. L.P.T.Chandrasiri
20. Lahiru Perera
21. M.A.C.Fathima Josinka
22. M.Robord
23. Maya Kalubowile
24. Medhaka Fernando
25. Mirak Raheem
26. Mujeebur Rahman
27. Nadeeshani Mahabandara
28. P. Logeswary
29. P.H.Hemalatha
30. Padmini Weerasuriya
31. Philip Dissanayake
32. Pradeepa Sudarshani
33. Prasanga Fernando
34. R.G.Podimenike
35. R.Rajkumar
36. Raga Alphonsus
37. Raja Senanayake
38. Ranmalee Anemelagoda
39. S.Yougendra
40. Seetha Ranjanee
41. Shantha D. Pathirana
42. Shreen Abdul Saroor
43. Sriyani Pathirage
44. Sudarshana Gunawardana
45. T.M. Imithiyar
46. Tharanga L Patabad
47. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
48. Viviyar Perera