At the Universal Periodic Review at the UN headquarters in Geneva, the head of the Sri Lankan delegation asks for patience with respect to the implementation of reforms. Critics exert pressure on issues like the people who went missing during the civil war, the return of seized lands, and the release and compensation for those unjustly accused of terrorism. Human Rights Watch also calls for action in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Geneva (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan government has accepted most of recommendations made by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its regular Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
In total, Colombo accepted 177 out of 230 recommendations made by the Council, chaired by Joaquín Alexander, whilst the remaining 53 are to be evaluated. Sri Lanka also made 12 voluntary pledges.
Sri Lanka's special envoy to the Council, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Harsha de Silva said all the recommendations made by the Un body were constructive and useful.
On the eve of the Geneva meeting, which took place 15 November, several international NGOs criticised Sri Lanka for the slow pace of its commitment to human rights despite the promises of President Maithripala Sirisena.
One of the issues still pending is the promise to establish a mechanism to achieve justice for those who were victims of abuses during the country's civil war, which lasted almost 30 years, ending in 2009.
Such a mechanism should help in the search for all missing persons, review previous convictions for terrorism, and put into place a law for the return of land seized from Tamil communities.
According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, women's rights, and the protection around sexual orientation and gender identity are also issues of concern.
"[N]o nation is perfect," de Silva told the UNHRC. “[I]t is natural to feel a sense of frustration”. Indeed, “Promoting and protecting human rights, we recognise, is constant work in progress. It is not something that can be done overnight despite the most sincere of commitments and the most fervent sense of determination.”
At the same time, he noted that his country's efforts to promote human rights are often criticised by his government’s political adversaries.
“Our efforts to ensure harmonious relations between the different ethno-religious communities, and our commitment to constitutional reform, are often attacked by opponents as attempts to create divisions,” he lamented. “Yet, we persevere with strong determination.”
(Melani Manel Perera contributed to this article)