The Sunday Leader

Government To Face UN Committee On Racial Discrimination

by Easwaran Rutnam

UN Assembly

The government is to face allegations of racial discrimination when it appears before a UN Committee in August. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is meeting in Geneva from August 2 to 26, during which it will review Sri Lanka from August 15-16.

Sri Lanka is among 177 States Parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. They are required to submit regular reports to the Committee that is composed of 18 international independent experts. CERD will also hear from NGOs and national human rights institutions.

The government has informed CERD that a delegation led by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha will attend the hearing on Sri Lanka.

The delegation will include the deputy Solicitor General at the Attorney General’s Department and officials from the Foreign Ministry, and the Sri Lankan Mission in Geneva.

Three civil society organizations have submitted their observations on Sri Lanka to the UN Committee.

The Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco tamoule (Bharathi CCFT) and International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) have submitted separate observation while the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), Centre for Human Rights Development (CHRD), and Minority Rights Group International (MRG) have submitted a joint observation.

National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), Centre for Human Rights Development (CHRD), and Minority Rights Group International (MRG) have in their joint statement noted that at present Sri Lanka is undergoing a process of transitional justice, with the government pledging to implement four mechanisms to facilitate transition; namely, an Office of Missing persons; an Office for Reparations; a Special Judicial Mechanism; and a Commission on Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence.

However, the joint submission notes that an effective implementation of these mechanisms is yet to be realised as the entire process is currently in its embryonic stages, which has meant that little change has been felt by war-affected communities in the North and East of the country.

The submission notes that ethnic, religious, and ethno-religious minorities in Sri Lanka continue to experience discrimination and myriad human rights violations— to some extent, even at the hands of the State.

Since the election of the new government, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) has documented a total of 132 incidents, faced by Christians belonging to both Sinhala and Tamil ethnic groups. Similarly, the Secretariat for Muslims has documented over 141 incidents against the Muslim minority. This reflects a continuation rather than break from the religious intolerance which has risen in the post-war era, and manifested in a range of different incidents, some of which have been more frequent but of a lower intensity, as well as higher intensity episodes including riots against Muslims in Aluthgama in 2014. It is important to note that ethnic and religious discrimination in Sri Lanka are closely intertwined.

The government in its combined 10 to 17 State parties periodic report to CERD submitted in 2015, stated that it is committed to ensuring that all ethnic communities have the right to their chosen faith without hindrance.

“In reality, however, religious minorities in Sri Lanka have experienced a number of restrictions on their religious practices and observances.

Notably, with the election of the new government, a total of 132 incidents have been documented against the Christian minorities (approximately 18 incidents involve Tamil Christians) and 141 incidents against the Muslim minorities. Notably, over 50 reported incidents from a total of 90 incidents in 2015 involved State officials. High-level police officials such as the Senior Superintendent of Police and the Assistant Superintendent of Police have been directly involved in a number of incidents,” the submission noted.

The submission also noted that provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) are in direct contravention of some of the most significant fundamental rights provisions granted by the Sri Lankan Constitution.

Furthermore, despite pledging to repeal the law in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2015, the government continues to use this piece of legislature to discriminate against and marginalize the country’s ethnic minority through detentions and arbitrary arrests,” the joint submission said. Meanwhile the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) said that the ethnic conflict which resulted in a full blown war in 2009 has impacted the majority-minority relations in the island, leaving behind challenges within the constitutional, legal and policy framework of the minority rights discourse including the stark reality of a narrative of bipolarization of the political imagination of a multi-ethnic society; marginalization through displacement and within minorities. “No doubt that the new government will be confronted with the every reality of the war as it grapples with the establishment of mechanisms for reconciliation, truth seeking, non-recurrence and accountability,” IMADR said. IMADR urged the government to enact equal opportunity legislation that protects the access of victims of racism and racial discrimination or those who may be victims to social services including employment, housing, education and healthcare; ensure recruitment of groups that are or may be affected by racism and racial discrimination to all public services, especially in areas where they are dispersed minorities; recognize the existence of caste-based discrimination and formulate policies, laws and administrative measures to eradicate discrimination based on work and descent.

The government was also urged to establish a Minority Commission to effectively investigate and take action on intolerance of and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities through minority rights education and specifically designed awareness raising campaigns.

Meanwhile the Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco tamoule (Bharathi CCFT) said that successive governments have continually violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and alleged that the current government has continued the trend.

“The present government has detained numerous Tamil civilians without filing cause under the Emergency law and Prevention against Terrorism Act even after the removed of emergency law. But the article 5 (a) of ICERD requires “the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.”

Bharathi CCFT urged the UN Committee to adopt a resolution supporting the implementation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OISL ) aimed at ending impunity, accounting for the past and reforming systems, and ensuring ongoing Human Rights Council engagement including by monitoring the implementation of the OISL report and the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and providing for regular updates, offer international expertise dedicated to ensuring that allegations identified by OISL of crimes under international law by Sri Lankan government forces, allied armed groups, are promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigated and that those suspected of committing a crime are prosecuted in genuine proceedings that fully conform to international standards for fair trial, offer international expertise dedicated to ensuring that victims of crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses are provided with other effective remedies, including full reparation and truth.

Bharathi CCFT also urged the UN Committee to offer support for and urge Sri Lanka to accept international cooperation and expertise to end impunity.



4 Comments for “Government To Face UN Committee On Racial Discrimination”

  1. raj

    At the end of the war, Sri Lanka has its Auswitz camp where people were kept before they were being killed. Only Gothabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa have knowledge about these camp how these people were killed and where they were killed. There is a movie called “The Reader”. This movie shows how those working in the Auswitz camp were prosecuted in Germany after the war. Will same thing happen in Sri Lanka? There is another movie called ” Hitler’s Children”. Both movies resembles the situation in Sri Lanka.

  2. raj

    Sri Lanka is facing Buddhist extremism like the way world is facing Islamic extremism. people should speak against Buddhist extremism and fanatics in order to build united Sri Lanka. As long as Buddhists monks interfere in Sri Lanka’s politics, there will be no solutions to the ethnic problem and no reconciliation between Tamils and Singhalese.

  3. gamarala

    No Sinhala speaking jury will convict Sinhala Buddhist members of the security forces even when sufficient evidence is led for conviction.

    International Jurists are necessary at least as “Observers” in any war crimes probe.

  4. politician are going after Buddhist monks nothing do with politics ,srilankan Buddhist monks are involved in communal if Buddhism is correct all other religion are same, srilanka Buddhist are involved in criminal actives, it is disgraced to Buddhism ,srilanka president and prime minister are going tor parliament decision to decide by monks.

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