Former President meets Gotabaya, Mahinda and Basil to seek clarification; holds meetings of SLFP leadership groups President Rajapaksa tells Wimal to stop campaigning to make him the leader of the ruling SLPP alliance Govt. faces tough challenges from UNHRC; India’s Geneva envoy makes thought provoking speech   Early this month, former President Maithripala Sirisena, learnt [...]


Easter Sunday massacres: Sirisena acts fast to avert criminal action


  • Former President meets Gotabaya, Mahinda and Basil to seek clarification; holds meetings of SLFP leadership groups
  • President Rajapaksa tells Wimal to stop campaigning to make him the leader of the ruling SLPP alliance
  • Govt. faces tough challenges from UNHRC; India’s Geneva envoy makes thought provoking speech


Early this month, former President Maithripala Sirisena, learnt from his sources that he had come under the adverse notice in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry that probed the Easter Sunday massacres in 2019. Yet, he was not sure what it said.

So, he hurriedly sought appointments with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Basil Rajapaksa, founder cum strategist of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna  (SLPP), the main partner in the ruling alliance. He made a plea to all three of them in separate meetings – asking for photocopies of the Report where there were references made to him.

Premier Rajapaksa met him in the afternoon of February 4, hours after he had taken part in the 72nd Independence Day celebrations. They discussed Sirisena’s concerns but did not have a copy of the Report. The following week, President Rajapaksa drove to Parliament, when it was in session, to meet Sirisena. Sirisena made the same plea. The President listened to his plea but had not brought a copy.

Basil Rajapaksa, who received a request for the meeting, had told Sirisena that he would come to his residence. When he went there, there were many others present. They included Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva,  Dayasiri Jayasekera, Mahinda Ameraweera, Duminda Dissanayake and Shantha Bandara. The subject turned to the Report. Basil Rajapaksa said he was not aware of the issue raised but assured it would be conveyed to President Rajapaksa.

Ahead of his speech to the UN Human Rights Council during its ‘high level’ segment, Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, visited the Dharmayathanaya Temple at Bullers Road on Tuesday. He received the blessings of the Maha Sangha. The chief incumbent Venerable Elle Gunawansa Nayaka Thera tying a pirith noola on the Ministers wrist. Also present were Yadamini Gunawardena, his son, and Gunadasa Amerasekera of the National Patriotic Movement.

By Tuesday, key elements of the Report became public. A copy sent to Parliament and received by Speaker Mahinda Abeywardena had been sent to the library. Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) frontliner Harin Fernando walked in, used the camera in his mobile phone to take pictures of the pages containing the conclusions and recommendations. Later, others also obtained similar copies. Fernando hurriedly tweeted it and the news spread worldwide. The Government’s communications machinery is in such shambles that the officials were not wise enough to disseminate it. They were also embarrassed. The next day, all parliamentarians received copies.

The well-known Sinhala adage gahen watuna minihata gonaa anna wagey or a bull goring a man who had just fallen from a tree aptly describes Sirisena’s reaction. Paradoxical enough, it was then President Sirisena who appointed the five-member Commission of Inquiry five months after the April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday bombings. It was headed by Supreme Court Justice Janak de Silva.

Now it is widely known that the Commission had recommended in its 472-page report “criminal proceedings” against Sirisena for “criminal liability” on his part in the ghastly Easter Sunday incidents. He hurriedly summoned a meeting of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Central Committee to discuss the Commission’s findings. Speakers lamented that the blame should not have been placed on the former President. They cited similar incidents in other countries. One was the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001 and the attack on a mosque at Christchurch in New Zealand during Friday Jummah prayers on March 15, 2019. Speakers noted that the leaders of those countries (President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) were not slapped with allegations of criminal conduct.

The SLFP’s All Island Executive Committee was hurriedly summoned for a meeting on Thursday. It was held at the Galle Face Hotel. Here was a party, founded by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike for the common man, choosing a five-star hotel for the event when it had its own multi-storied headquarters building at Darley Road. The Committee endorsed a decision made by the Central Committee to reject the recommendations against Sirisena by the Commission. In reality, such a decision would be of no use. If for example, the Attorney General chooses to indict a member of the SLFP for any alleged offence, would a resolution by a party body be of any help?  The meeting also took the opportunity to re-appoint Sirisena as the SLFP leader.

Ranil censured

The Commission also held that “the lax approach of (former) Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, towards Islam (sic) extremism was one of the primary reasons for the failure” to prevent the attack. It said, “Even after his (re) appointment as Prime Minister in December 2018, he was not invited by President Sirisena for any National Security Council meetings. The COI sees no justifiable reason for the failure to do so on the part of President Sirisena. However, it was incumbent on the Prime Minister to have raised this in Parliament or at the Cabinet in order to ensure that the status quo is restored. The failure on the part of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to do so and after the Easter attack and take up the position that he was not invited is unacceptable.” It has also recommended criminal proceedings against the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, the then Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera, the then Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis and other senior police officers. Details of the Commission’s findings appear elsewhere in this newspaper.

There was considerable embarrassment at the highest levels of the government over the early leak of the Commission’s Report. President Rajapaksa had named a six-member Committee to identify “the overall process” including the measures that need to be taken by various agencies and authorities such as Parliament, the Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Department, security forces, state intelligence services, to implement the recommendations.

The Committee is headed by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and includes ministers Johnston Fernando, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Prasanna Ranatunga, Udaya Gammanpila and Ramesh Pathirana. The appointment drew an acerbic remark from Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith that some in the committee had not even passed their GCE (OL). He also raised issues over why a political committee was appointed to review a report of a commission comprising members who are serving or retired members of the judiciary.

There is also a disconnect. In his address to the nation on February 4 (Independence Day) President Rajapaksa said, “I have advised the Attorney General’s Department to quickly act upon matters that have caused great concern to the public, such as the Easter Sunday attack and the Central Bank bond scam.” However, the AG declared thereafter that he had not received a copy of the report of the Easter Sunday attack Commission of Inquiry. Last week, he received only the first volume of the report, prompting him to request the Presidential Secretariat for the other volumes including records of evidence.

Though factually not correct, the differences that existed when the yahapalana government was in power surfaced again last Thursday with fresh allegations. Many who took part in the SLFP’s All-Island Executive Committee charged that the recommendations of the Commission were the result of a ‘conspiracy’ by their erstwhile UNP partner. They came up with their own theories. A senior UNPer who did not wish to be identified declared, “President Sirisena appointed members on whom he had trust. Why cry now when they have brought out the facts.”  Government leaders were of the view that the legal process would be followed through by the Attorney General.

Serious shortcomings

The Commission’s findings, which have received a mixed response in the political spectrum, do reflect serious shortcomings. One of the terms of reference of the Commission is “to identify persons and organisations who are directly or indirectly connected to these terrorist acts….” The Commission has not been able to throw more light on who funded, armed, and carried out those acts. In this respect, though the Commission has clearly identified IS (Islamic State) links. This is in stark contrast to the remarks of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID’s) retired Deputy Inspector General, Ravi Seneviratne. He had declared both before and outside the commission that they had not come across any evidence to link foreign entities. One need hardly say that under the previous yahapalana government, the CID was not in full thrust in its investigations. It is no secret that the CID came under pressure from political parties that backed the then government and were influenced by various groups.

Wimal’s controversial remarks

The issues related to the 2019 Easter Sunday incidents surfaced at a time when another political issue went on without the glare of media publicity. It was the aftermath of remarks made by Minister Wimal Weerawansa that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be made the leader of the SLPP. He was backed by his ministerial colleague Udaya Gammanpila. He made those remarks to our sister newspaper the Irida Lankadeepa.  Their strategy, a senior SLPP member who did not wish to be identified, said, was to isolate Basil Rajapaksa, the founder of the SLPP and widely regarded as the man behind the success of the party at both the presidential and parliamentary elections. Other key members charged that the strategy was “to split the Rajapaksa family members,” an allegation the duo denied. However, they have kept away from meetings summoned by Basil Rajapaksa in his capacity as the head of the Task Force on Economic Recovery.

During a meeting with Weerawansa, President Rajapaksa had urged that that he should attend meetings of the Task Force since they were involved with development activities of the government. That was his message to Minister Gammanpila too. The President said he had to contest the presidential election under a political party. That was why he became a candidate of the SLPP. That was the reason why the people voted for him with an overwhelming majority. He then re-iterated that the matter ended there and he had no ambitions for other party positions. Therefore, he urged Minister Weerawansa not to proceed with his campaign to find positions for him.

Later, both Weerawansa and Gammanpila together with another group wrote to President Rajapaksa on February 12, urging him to summon a meeting of partner leaders of the ruling alliance. They said that even Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should be invited. The reason was to discuss the current situation in the country. Among the signatories to the letter were Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Weerakumara Dissanayake, Ven. Athureliya Rathana thera, Gevindu Kumaratunga and Asanga Navaratne.

UNHRC challenges

Other than the domestic issues, a new resolution on Sri Lanka, now handed over to the UN Human Rights Council secretariat in Geneva by the United Kingdom on behalf of the core group is causing serious concern for the government. The western monopoly of the group has now been diluted by the advent of Malawi from the African region. The full text of the resolution, which is subject to change when informal discussions begin tomorrow, appears in a box story on this page. 

On Thursday, Foreign Ministers, and envoys of 40 countries made their contributions to the UN High Commissioner’s Report during an Interactive Dialogue which began on Wednesday and was continued on Thursday morning in order to exhaust the speaker’s list. Also addressing the event were representatives of 12 Non-Governmental organisations. There were speeches for and against UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michele Bachelet’s latest Report on Sri Lanka and also on the progress achieved by the country on the related issues. If a vote is to be instituted on the adoption of the draft resolution, a close analysis of the statements by Council member states could provide an indication of their final position, though it would be more difficult to adduce abstentions.

The positions enunciated by some countries do give a deeper insight into their thinking. One such significant case is that of India whose envoy made a thought-provoking speech. Ahead of that, first to the highlights of Sri Lanka Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena’s statement. He said, “The OHCHR Report, which is presented today, emanates from the Resolution 30/1 and 40/1, from which the Government of Sri Lanka announced its withdrawal of co-sponsorship, at the 43rd Session of this Council last year.

“Sri Lanka rejects the High Commissioner’s Report which has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic for any self-respecting, sovereign country. This is in complete violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the UN that states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”

“The trajectory that has emerged about the recommendations and conclusions reflects the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which certain elements have relentlessly pursued against Sri Lanka. These recommendations are based on ill-founded allegations.

“The call for asset freezes, travel bans, references to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by individual States, based on evidence that up to date has been denied access to and retained by the High Commissioners Office with some of it unreleased for thirty years, particularly in relation to a country like Sri Lanka which has consistently and constructively engaged with the UN and its mechanisms, points to a distinct and eminent (sic) danger which the international community as a whole need to take note of. Such unilateral actions by certain countries are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.”

It is arguable whether Foreign Minister Gunawardena did use the five minutes allotted to him, to drive home the most pertinent points at issue. One of them is to seek a closure on the subject in the UNHRC. His speech was more general and dealt with known realities.

One of the more significant speeches, especially important, in today’s context, was made by India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey. He said, “We have taken note of the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and her oral remarks. The Council has adopted 7 Resolutions on the question of human rights in Sri Lanka since May 2009, when the three decades old conflict in that country ended. India has been an active participant in the discussions on these Resolutions and has remained engaged with Sri Lanka as its close friend and immediate neighbour. India’s consistent position rests on two pillars:

i). Support for Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity, and

ii). Abiding commitment to aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, peace, and dignity.

“These are not either-or choices. We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. Therefore, we advocate that delivering on the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community is in the best interests of Sri Lanka.

“We call upon Sri Lanka to take necessary steps for addressing such aspirations, including through the process of reconciliation and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

“The assessment of the High Commissioner regarding developments nearly 12 years from the end of the conflict raises important concerns. The Sri Lankan Government has articulated its position on these issues as well. In evaluation of both of these, we should be guided by a commitment to find a lasting and effective solution for this issue.”

Is it by coincidence that the two pillars Pandey refers to have resonance in the draft Resolution? The support for Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity, as pledged by him, is reflected in the preambular para (PP) 3 together with his country’s abiding commitment to the aspirations of Tamils of Sri Lanka and therefore calling for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment is well ensconced in PP 7. Does this portray that India has contributed to the draft resolution now at hand? It cannot be forgotten that the May 2009 Resolution on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, was the first text which internationalised the implementation of the 13th Amendment. That too in return for their full support in ensuring the adoption of a “counter” text termed at that juncture. This short-sighted initiative even gave way to self-aggrandisement with hoardings in Colombo’s streets praising the leadership of then delegation to the HRC. So here is the 13th Amendment again emerging in a global context, an issue which otherwise is domestic in nature.

It is interesting that envoy Pandey makes a moot point that 12 years after the end of the conflict the High Commissioner (in her Report) “raises important concerns” and balances by pointing out that that “the Sri Lankan government has articulated its position as well.” By this, India has taken cognisance of the contents of the UN High Commissioner’s Report and has not sought to reject it, as called for by Sri Lanka. True India has acknowledged Sri Lanka’s stated position on the Report. Following this, India has declared that “in evaluation of both of these, we should be guided by a commitment to find a lasting and effective solution for this issue.” A well-crafted position by India, thereby keeping options open to derive the best from Sri Lanka be it on the political and/or economic fronts. After rejecting the Human Rights High Commissioner’s Report, can Sri Lanka now go back and provide a reassurance to what Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena calls a resolution motivated by “political reasons”? Would that not be eating humble pie for a second time after withdrawing mandatory cremation of Covid-19 victims?

The UNHRC events turn the focus more pointedly on the conduct of the country’s foreign policy. A review of the past 15 months, when the ruling alliance has been in office, shows more minuses than pluses. For example, with India, there has been no Sri Lanka High Commissioner in New Delhi for over a year. The manner in which the Colombo Port’s East Container Terminal issue was handled bruising good relations is unimaginable. Foreign Secretary, Jayanath Colombage once declared India is Sri Lanka’s first priority. Last week, he officially announced that President Rajapaksa had written to Indian Premier Narendra Modi requesting his government’s support at the UNHRC in Geneva and openly divulged the non-receipt of a response.

In Colombo, some sections of the diplomatic community opine that this could be an embarrassment to the Indian Premier and in such situations normal diplomatic practice is for officials to seek discussions to arrive at a strategy. It is not clear whether the Sri Lankan authorities had such consultations primarily with India and other South Asian neighbours in making its way forward. This is a basic need for such a process. Judging by the current development, one could guess that India will abstain at a vote at the UNHRC on this issue. Regrettably, this could give rise to other Asian states also following suit, thus injuring solidarity in the region. India’s message at the Council will soothe the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (ADMK), the ruling Bharatiya Janatha Party’s partner at the Tamil Nadu elections on April 6, for their legislature.

In another development yesterday, there are moves to dispatch Milinda Moragoda, who earlier refused his appointment as Sri Lanka High Commissioner to India, to fly urgently take up the appointment. Even during a normal dpl assignment has the government come under international pressure to do so?

Foreign Secretary Colombage also declared earlier that United States President Joe Biden should put his house in order. That was his response to US Ambassador Allaina B. Teplitz conducting a news conference and making remarks on behalf of her country. This week, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, who addressed the UNHRC had some extraordinarily strong words against Sri Lanka. After the adoption of the Resolution, would such a situation place in jeopardy Sri Lanka’s garment exports to the United States, the principal market? This is besides travel bans.

Negativities galore

The mandatory cremation of Muslims who die of Covid-19 was lifted after visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan raised issue with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Just this week, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Secretary General had to use some strong words in Geneva before the ban was lifted. Could this not have hampered Sri Lankans seeking jobs in West Asia? Or did it have to come to pressure being applied to a basic domestic issue? This does not augur well for the government which seems to be heaping negativity on itself, especially in the international context. If the argument that the cremation of Covid-19 victims were made mandatory for “scientific” reasons, a tweet from Pakistan High Commissioner Saad Khattak makes interesting reading. It says, “Allowing burial of Covid victims is a visionary decision promising greater ethnic harmony leading to prosperity @Imran Khan PTI personal involvement and the decision taken has proved the depth of our relationship and mutual respect.”

Similarly, what about GSP plus from the European Union and the country’s fish exports to member countries? Will they not face a threat? Some ill-informed quarters claim there will not be punitive action. They are woefully unaware of the pitfalls of the current draft resolution, which has its sting in couched language rather than blatant references from the Human Rights High Commissioner’s Report: Whilst this Resolution welcomes the said recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that too after 2015 to 2019, being the period of co-sponsorship of 30/1 and those that followed thereby forcing responsibility on issues, some of which are of a questionable basis and already rejected by the government.

Furthermore, this Resolution gives way to future action, that too in the soil of third countries, where Universal Jurisdiction could come into play.  This is outlined in preambular para 14 where the responsibility of states to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law should be read with Operational Paragraph 6 where it “calls for the preservation of evidence and information and support judicial proceedings in member states with competent jurisdiction.” It is further noteworthy for the government that this operative paragraph speaks in terms of “future accountability,” an area which can bring home more internationalised problems.

It is interesting to note that for the first time the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem (LTTE) is being held accountable for the violation and abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka in operational para 4. Does this mean that the provisions in the preambular paragraph (PP) 14 and (OP) 6 to the rump LTTE in western countries? Maybe the UK, as the prime mover of the Resolution, could lead by example by acting on the likes of Adele Balasingham, who is resident there and is known to have worked closely with the Tiger guerrilla women’s corps.

One wonders if this unprecedented censure is a sop to appease the people of Sri Lanka who did not take to the co-sponsorship of the resolution and sought to give marching orders to the yahapalana government that took such an unconventional step which some part of the polity described as treason. In fact, it would be recalled that the core group represented in Colombo went out of its way to give an explanation to the Sri Lankan people on its basis to move a resolution on the country which is out of the norm. Was the core group worried of a backlash from the people? This initiative and that with the accountability reference to the LTTE can be surmised to being sensitive to the country’s polity.

Some senior government leaders are worried that the UNHRC Resolution’s impact on the economic sphere, elements of which were pointed out above. “There is a need for the Foreign Minister and his Ministry to be more proactive to prevent the deterioration of this worrying situation,” said one of them. He questioned whether President Rajapaksa had given the Minister a “free hand” to produce results. While there is an affirmation in this regard, there are also reports that much of the foreign policy issues are handled in the realm of the Presidential Secretariat. It is also evident that meetings with foreign dignitaries at the Presidential level continue without Foreign Ministry officials at hand, at best the Foreign Secretary who has some limitations on aspects of diplomatic practice and institutional memory. Records of such discussions are important for the institution when formulating respective policies both in the present and the future.

The need of the hour is not feeding a media frenzy about the prospects defeating or stifling the resolution and giving the numbers of countries that will support. It lies in telling the people of Sri Lanka the true picture in Geneva. If it works in the government’s favour, billboards can come up again. If it fails, the question is whether those who make colossal blunders will continue to do so.

Text of the core group resolution against Sri Lanka


ere is the full text of the draft resolution handed in by the United Kingdom and other members of the core group of countries to the UN Human Rights Council Secretariat in Geneva. The wording or provisions are subject to change after informal discussions that begin tomorrow. Voting will take place in the afternoon of Monday, March 22.

46th Session of the Human Rights Council

Promoting reconciliation, accountability,
and human rights in Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Council,

PP1: Guided by purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recalling the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

PP2: Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 19/2, 22/1 25/1, 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka,

PP3: Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka,

PP4: Reaffirming also that it is the primary responsibility of each State to respect, to promote and fulfil human rights as well as to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,

PP5: Deploring the acts of terrorism which occurred in Sri Lanka in April 2019 leading to high numbers of injuries and deaths,

PP6: Acknowledging the holding of free and transparent democratic elections in November 2019 and August 2020,

PP7: Taking note of the passage and operationalization of the twentieth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka while stressing the importance of democratic governance and independent oversight of key institutions, and also encouraging the Government to respect local governance including holding of elections for provincial councils, and ensure that all provincial councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka,

PP8: Reaffirming that all Sri Lankans are entitled to the full enjoyment of their human rights without distinction of any kind such as religion, belief, or ethnic origin, in a peaceful and unified land,

PP9: Acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining, land return, resettling internally displaced persons and improving livelihoods, and encouraging further efforts in these areas,

PP10: Welcoming the continued commitment by the Government of Sri Lanka to remain engaged with and seek the assistance of the United Nations and its agencies, including human rights mandates and mechanisms, in capacity building and technical assistance,

PP11: Reaffirming also that measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with States’ obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law,

PP12: Emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice, provide remedies to victims, avoid recurrence of violations of human rights and promote healing and reconciliation,

PP13: Recognizing that mechanisms to redress past abuses and violations work best when they are independent, impartial, and transparent; and use consultative and participatory methods, that include the views from all relevant stakeholders including, but not limited to, victims, women, youth, representatives from various religions, ethnicities, and geographic locations as well as people from marginalized groups,

PP14: Recalling the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law,

PP15: Noting with appreciation the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights towards the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation, and accountability in Sri Lanka,

OP1: Welcomes the oral update presented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session and the report of Office of the High Commission for Human Rights at its forty-sixth session.

OP2: Also welcomes the positive engagement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights between 2015 and 2019, urges the continuation of such engagement and calls on Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

OP3: Acknowledges the progress achieved by the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations and stresses the importance of maintaining support to these institutions, safeguarding their independent and effective functioning, providing both offices with sufficient resources and technical means to effectively fulfill their mandates, allowing them to proceed with interim relief measures for affected vulnerable families, with a gender focus, and resolving the many cases of enforced disappearances so that families of the disappeared can know their fate and whereabouts;

OP4: Stresses the importance of a comprehensive accountability process for all violations and abuses of human rights committed in Sri Lanka, including those by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as highlighted in the OISL report of September 2015.

OP5: Notes the persistent lack of accountability through domestic mechanisms and regrets that the domestic Commission of Inquiry announced on 22 January 2021 lacks independence and does not include a mandate to pursue accountability for past gross violations of human rights, or for serious violations of international humanitarian law,

OP6: Recognises the importance of preserving and analysing evidence relating to violations and abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka with a view to advancing accountability and decides to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial proceedings in Member States with competent jurisdiction;

OP7: Expresses serious concern over emerging trends over the past year, which represent clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including the accelerating militarization of civilian government functions, erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights, ongoing impunity and political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations in “emblematic cases”, policies that adversely affect the right to freedom of religion or belief, surveillance and intimidation of civil society and shrinking democratic space, arbitrary detentions, allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment and sexual and gender based violence, and that these trends threaten to reverse the limited but important gains made in recent years and risk the recurrence of policies and practices that gave rise to the grave violations of the past;

OP8: Expresses further concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on freedom of religion or belief and exacerbated the prevailing marginalisation and discrimination suffered by the Muslim community, and that the Government of Sri Lanka’s decision to mandate cremations for all those deceased from COVID-19 has prevented Muslims and members of other religions from practicing their own burial religious rites, and has disproportionately affected religious minorities and exacerbated distress and tensions,

OP9: Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of all allegations of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law including for longstanding emblematic cases,

OP10: Also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the effective and independent functioning of the National Human Rights Commission, the Office on Missing Persons, and the Office for Reparations.

OP11: Further calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to protect civil society actors, to investigate any attacks and ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance, insecurity, and reprisals.

OP12: Requests the Government of Sri Lanka review the Prevention of Terrorism Act and ensure that any legislation to combat terrorism complies with its international human rights and humanitarian law obligations.

OP13: Urges the Government of Sri Lanka to foster religious freedom and pluralism by promoting the ability of all religious communities to manifest their religion, and to contribute openly and on an equal footing to society.

OP14: Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to continue to cooperate with special procedures mandate holders, including responding formally to outstanding requests.

OP15: Also encourages the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps,

OP16: Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including progress on reconciliation and accountability, and to present a written update to the Human Rights Council at its forty-ninth session, and a comprehensive report including further options for advancing accountability at its fifty-first session, both to be discussed in interactive dialogues.

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