Govt. gearing up for HR Council meeting

The Government has already begun working towards the first meeting of the Human Rights Council which will be held in Geneva on June 19, a Foreign Ministry source told The Sunday Times.

“We have a very high-level body which is called the Permanent Standing Committee on Human Rights, co-chaired by the Foreign Minister and the Human Rights Minister and includes others such as the Defence Secretary, the Justice Ministry Secretary, the Inspector General of Police, service commanders and others, which is due to meet on May 25 to formulate strategies and make recommendations as to how to give effect to pledges and commitments made by the Government prior to its election to the Council,” the source said.

Election to this Council will create additional pressure, human rights experts observe, as the UN General Assembly would have the power to suspend Council members who commit gross and systematic violations during their term, a feature which was lacking in the previous HR Commission. Sri Lanka and the other nations which were elected to the Council in New York on Tuesday had submitted pledges and commitments with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights, in the event they were elected to such an esteemed international body.

In pursuit of this commitment, the Sri Lankan Government has undertaken, inter alia, to carry out strengthening of the Human Rights Ministry, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and other independent statutory bodies as a part of the national human rights protection system.

The Government has also recognized that development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and says it will participate with the Council actively and constructively.

Among the pledges submitted by Sri Lanka to the United Nations were, that, if elected, it will make a constructive contribution to the deliberations of the Council.

Sri Lanka was a party to all major human rights instruments and to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Optional Protocol to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Sri Lanka has also at different points of time invited treaty related working bodies to undertake missions here.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has pledged to enact a Human Rights Charter in line with the policy statement made by him soon after assuming office, and has created a new Human Rights Ministry with a mandate to undertake the task of promoting and protecting human rights in keeping with Sri Lanka's international and national obligations, a manifestation of the Government’s deep commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

This important election therefore comes at a time when the Government has launched a clear human rights agenda and work programme, the Foreign Ministry source said.

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