Press release

Foreign Office responds to UN report on Sri Lanka

Hugo Swire welcomes report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and supports her call for an international investigation into Sri Lanka.

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On Monday 24 February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, released her report on the promotion of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka following her visit to Sri Lanka last August.

In response to the publication of the report, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said:

The British Government attaches great importance to lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. This is a message that the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I gave when we visited Sri Lanka last year. We welcome the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka, and share her concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and the lack of progress on accountability. These concerns include the undermining of independent institutions such as the judiciary, a ‘significant surge’ in attacks on religious minorities, reports of sexual harassment and violations, continuation of impunity, continued militarisation of former conflict areas and the continuing trend of restrictions on freedom of expression and association. It is deeply disappointing to note that the government of Sri Lanka have not taken any of the steps recommended following the High Commissioner’s visit in August 2013, and that they have failed to accept all offers of technical assistance on accountability from the UN.

We will continue to study closely both the report and the response of the government of Sri Lanka over the coming weeks. But we strongly agree with the High Commissioner’s assessment that the Sri Lankan government has ‘failed to ensure independent and credible investigations into past violations of international human rights and humanitarian law’ on both sides during the civil war, and we therefore strongly support her call for an international investigation. We agree that the failure of national accountability mechanisms is also ‘fundamentally a question of political will’, rather than the result of a lack of technical capacity, which has been offered repeatedly to the government of Sri Lanka by the international community.

The international community now has a duty to act, and we will be using our position on the UN Human Rights Council to actively press for an international investigation given the lack of a credible domestic accountability process to date. We acknowledge and welcome the progress which has been made by the government of Sri Lanka in areas including the reintegration of child soldiers, demining, and reconstruction of conflict affected areas. However, it is our strong belief that, without a credible investigation in to these very serious allegations of the past, it will be very difficult for the Sri Lankan people to move forward in the true spirit of lasting peace, reconciliation and unity and for Sri Lanka to reach its true potential.

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Published 28 February 2014