"To us all towns
are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
49th SESSIONS: FEBRUARY 1993
- Statement by Mr.Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, 23 February, 1993 under Agenda Item No. 10(C): Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances.
- Statement by Mr.Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, 11 March 1993 under agenda Item 12
- Human Rights Commission Chairman's acknowledgment read out following the delivery of the national statement of the delegation of Sri Lanka, 11 March 1993
- Situation Report presented by Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka, Geneva, January 1993
- Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador under Agenda Item 4 on Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories including Palestine and Agenda Item 9 on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation.
Statement by Mr.Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation, 23 February, 1993 under Agenda Item No. 10(C): Question of enforced or involuntary disappearances.
Mr. Chairman, the process of cooperation between the United Nations Working Group on Disappearances and the government of Sri Lanka has been continuing for several years, through regular exchanges of information, and direct discussions during the annual sessions of the Group both here in Geneva and in New York. This cooperation was expanded in 1991, when the government, on its own initiative, invited the Working Group to visit Sri. Lanka. The objective being to supplement the government's own effort in dealing with reports of disappearances in the country which had arisen in the context of terrorist violence of the LTTE in the North and the East, as well as that of the JVP in the South. Subsequent to its visit, the Working Group in its report to the 48th session of the Commission on Human Rights made 14 recommendations to the government. Most of these were accepted as valid and applicable as the government had already taken initiatives on similar lines to address these issues. The possibility of extending another invitation to the Group to undertake a second visit Sri Lanka in order to evaluate the implementation of its recommendations was also foreseen.
This follow-up visit, as decided by the government, and announced through the Chairman of the 48th Session of the Commission took place seven months later in October 1992. The reasons which prompted the government to seek the cooperation of the Working Group were the recognition; that there were yet reports of alleged disappearances, though on a diminished scale; that Sri Lanka was conscious of its constitutional and treaty obligations to address the issue; and that corrective measures being implemented by the government could be augmented with the cooperation of the United Nations. Further, as acknowledged by the Chairman's Statement at the 48th Session, Sri Lanka had undertaken to implement the recommendations of the Working Group and to intensify its efforts towards the promotion and protection of human rights.
The conclusions of the Working Group subsequent to this follow up visit are contained in document E/CN4/1993/25 Add I, and will be the subject of my comments. We are happy to note the acknowledgement by the Group, as reflected in para 122 of the report, of Sri Lanka's policy of openness and cooperation in addressing reports of human rights violations including disappearances. I quote
"The members of the mission were impressed with the atmosphere of openness and transparency that prevailed in its contacts with all government officials, ranging from civilians in Colombo to army officers in detention camps outside Amparai. That overall attitude, already noticed at the time of the first visit, was found to be consolidated and more generalized during the second visit. Particularly striking was the readiness to impart information that might possibly be embarrassing to the government. Also, the Working Group found that the Sri Lankan authorities were even more positively disposed than last year squarely to confront human rights problems and consider remedial action. The responsiveness of the government to the Group's suggestions was again impressive. Unquote
With regard to the substantive issues raised in the report, I will begin by apprising the members of the Commission of the progress made by Sri Lanka since the visit of the Working Group last October. In this regard, I will refer to three areas in which significant progress has already been achieved
- the revision of security legislation;
- the accountability of those found culpable of causing disappearances and other human rights violations;
- the important breakthrough in the search for a negotiated political resolution of the situation in the North and the East.
Firstly, in regard to security legislation. We have amended the Emergency Regulations. Of a total of 15 Regulations which have been amended, I wish to highlight three. These revisions came about as a result of the endeavours of an independent group viz. the Human Rights Centre in the University of Colombo.
(i) From now on, in all instances of persons arrested by security personnel after cordon and search operations, receipts have to be issued to the next of kin. All arrests are now required to be reported to Commanding Officers or Superintendents of Police.
(ii) There are specific duties cast on persons in charge of places of detention. These officials are now mandatorily required to submit to the local Magistrate, lists of detenues in their charge. Magistrates will be kept informed of all places of detention and are required to visit these places.
(iii) The period of a Detention Order which earlier was unlimited, has now been restricted to three months. This would ensure that at the end of the three months period, the case would come up for review.
The amendment of the 15 Regulations is to be considered a first step. The process of further review of the Emergency Regulations is continuing. The recommendations of the University study when finalized, will be a further input to this process. The objective of this exercise is to ensure that the security forces are not above the rule of law, and to prevent any attempt to use these Regulations to create a climate of impunity.
The second area is that of enhancing accountability of security personnel. In this regard, let me refer to some well publicized cases. The Report of the Working Group on Disappearances too has mentioned some of these. For example: police officers from the Tangalle police station found culpable in the inquiry before the Presidential Commission on Involuntary Removals have been charged for murder. In the Mailenthenna incident, 23 army personnel have been charged with murder in the Civil Courts for an alleged reprisal attack on civilians. The officer in charge of the Nivitigala police station and three other police officers have been charged with murder in respect of an alleged disappearance. In the Embilipitiya case, the members of the armed forces concerned have been questioned and further investigations are being conducted.
The third area is the recent breakthrough in our long search to find a political solution to the problems in the North and the East. It will be recognized that there is a distinct linkage between the conflict in the North and the East of Sri Lanka and the alleged violations of human rights in these areas. If we can achieve a resolution of the former, we would be eliminating the root causes of the latter.
In December last year, the Select Committee of Parliament which has been addressing the issue of a just and durable peace in the North and the East, came to a bipartisan consensus. This has greatly enhanced the possibility of a resolution of this complex problem. The elements of the consensus encompass both the future relationship of the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the larger issue of devolution. The next stage, after this significant breakthrough, subject to agreement between the government and the opposition parties, would be that of obtaining the response of the Tamil political parties, and the LTTE. The government is optimistic that this breakthrough provides an unprecedented opportunity for a settlement of the issue.
Mr. Chairman, the preceding paragraphs have made reference only to some select areas highlighted in the Working Group report and particularly to measures taken since its visit in October 92. In the interest of brevity, I will summarize some of the other measures which have also been taken by the government in its efforts to address reports of alleged disappearances in particular, and human rights concerns in general.
The number of persons in custody under the Emergency Regulations are being progressively reduced. The simplified procedure adopted by the Supreme Court with the concurrence of the Attorney-General's Department and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka for detenues to invoke the fundamental rights remedy available under our Constitution, has resulted in the examination of over 2300 cases during 1992. The Habeas Corpus procedure, now available even in the Provincial Courts can be used by those who find it difficult to seek remedial action in the capital. There are many legal safeguards to ensure that a suspect is not kept unnecessarily in detention by bureaucratic inaction, and the Supreme Court does insist on their strict compliance. On a number of occasions the Supreme Court has passed strictures and ordered compensation when there is even a technical lapse in the arrest or detention procedures. These measures, amongst other reliefs granted to detenues ensure that the authorities take early action in assessing their cases. More important, these measures also make it essential for the relevant authorities to act within the law, and keep an accurate track of persons from the time of their arrest.
As highlighted in the report of the Working Group, the legal safeguards are of limited relevance, if knowledge of their existence is inaccessible to the public at large. Steps are being taken to consolidate the existing Emergency Regulations and promote legal literacy by making the security legislation freely available. This will not only heighten awareness of individual rights, but will also serve to check abuses by the law enforcement authorities.
Mr. Chairman, these measures have been taken to augment the efficacy of the administrative and judicial checks that are already present. They also strengthen the rule of law and disabuse the minds of those who feel that they could act with impunity. Isolated acts of indiscipline or retaliation under grave provocation by persons acting under colour of authority should not be taken as part of an approved policy or seen as encouragement to flout the rule of law. The prosecution and punishment of such wrongdoers is absolutely necessary for good governance. We have done much towards this end and would continue to do so in our own interest and on our own accord.
We recognize that the conclusions made by the Working Group are offered with the best of intentions. However, we find that some assertions relating to the pace of negotiations and "levels of violence" are not commensurate with the continuing but painstaking democratic negotiations and the complexity of the situation in the country. The Working Group itself acknowledges in para 126 of the report that a downward trend in disappearances was evident even from the time of the previous visit of the Group. This has resulted from the governments policy to improve the overall situation of human rights, as referred to by the Working Group in para 130 of the report. Further, of the 62 cases reported in 1992, almost all are from the North and the East. As is evident to any observer, the current situation in all parts of the South of the country is one of near normality in which democratic institutions are functioning. Reports of disappearances in these parts, we are glad to say, have almost disappeared.
The pace of political negotiations may not be to the satisfaction of the impatient observer. We are, however, encouraged by the fact that, as previously described, a significant breakthrough has been achieved in the negotiations in arriving at a suitable political framework for the devolution of power to the North and the East. This process which grapples with long years of ethnic, political and other grievances cannot and should not be concluded in haste, without proper consideration. The Government remains committed to this democratic political process as it is convinced that no lasting solution can be found through military means.
Mr. Chairman, the phenomenon of disappearances did not arise from any deliberate policy of the government either through action or inaction. It was the by-product of an extraordinary situation created by terrorist violence. The implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group will undoubtedly assist us in strengthening structural, and operational deficiencies. This process however cannot be realistically reviewed in too brief a time frame. It has to be related to the exigencies of the prevailing political and security situation. Judging our pace by standards which do not take into consideration these constraints, is unrealistic; however, given our transparency in the issue, and our will in overcoming obstacles and the measures already undertaken, we are confident of ultimate success. Sri Lanka will, of its own accord, as exemplified in its process of cooperation with the Working Group, continue to cooperate with the United Nations towards this end. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Statement by Mr.Tilak Marapone, Leader of Sri Lanka Delegation and Attorney General, Sri Lanka, 11 March 1993
Mr Chairman in my statements on 23 February and 3 March, 1993, my delegation sought to set out in detail, measures taken by the Government of Sri Lanka on a broad front to address issues relating to the human rights concerns raised by a variety of sources including those in this Commission. The government will continue to pursue its policy of openness and cooperation with regard to further measures for the promotion and protection of human rights. Collaboration with the United Nations, national institutions and interested governments will continue to be an integral element of this policy. This open and cooperative policy is derived from the democratic principle of the government's accountability to its people and the electorate and Sri Lanka's international treaty obligations. We see this policy as a means of sustaining and strengthening the democratic form of governance which Sri Lanka has uninterruptedly practised for over half a century.
As the report of the Working Group on Disappearances indicates, the measures taken by the government have led to considerable improvements in the human rights situation. In particular, the number of reported cases of disappearances have been greatly reduced. However, residual concerns remain in particular areas. The government of Sri Lanka shares these concerns voiced both nationally and internationally, as they constitute an integral part of the government's overall policy designed to restore normality in the face of extraordinary security problems generated by terrorist violence. Of particular concern, is the continuing violence in the North and the East. As long as this conflict continues, it would create conditions in which the risk of human rights abuses can increase.
In this context, and having shared with the Commission, information on what we have achieved so far, I would now like to share with the members of the Commission the main elements of the programme of work which the government has undertaken to carry out during the course of this year. This signifies the continuation of the process which I have described in some detail in our previous statements in the Commission including those made under Agenda items 10 and 12.
This programme of work would include:
taking appropriate measures to ascertain the whereabouts of persons referred to in the reports of alleged disappearances which have been brought to the attention of the government by the UN Working Group on Disappearances;
the prosecution of those responsible for disappearances and other human rights violations. In order to dispel any doubts on this matter, I wish to categorically state that there exists in Sri Lanka no indemnity legislation which could serve to absolve any such persons from prosecution;
a comprehensive review and revision of Emergency legislation relating to arrest and detention, taking into account the recommendations of the study being carried out by the Human Rights Centre of the University of Colombo;
the compilation and publication of a consolidated version of all current Emergency Regulations to promote public awareness;
continued efforts to explore all avenues to build upon the important breakthrough achieved in the Parliamentary Select Committee with a view to arriving at a negotiated political solution to the problems related to the North and East of the country; and
continued the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group arising from its first visit to Sri Lanka in 1991.
The government will also give due consideration to the recommendations of the Working Group made after its second visit in 1992.
'Mr Chairman, as my delegation had stated previously including in its statement at the 48th Session of the Commission my government's voluntary invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit Sri Lanka still stands. The government has also decided to consider favourably Sri Lanka's accession to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
'In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to state that my government, in keeping with its consistent policy in the field of human rights, would continue to share with the members of this Commission and other interested parties, information on progress we make in this field.'
Human Rights Commission Chairman's acknowledgment read out following the delivery of the national statement of the delegation of Sri Lanka, 11 March 1993
The Commission acknowledges the statement of the representative of Sri Lanka concerning the situation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
The Government of Sri Lanka has outlined a programme of work which is to be implemented in the course of the year which includes: taking appropriate measures to ascertain the whereabouts of alleged missing persons; prosecution of those found responsible for disappearances and other human rights violations; a comprehensive review and revision of emergency legislation relating to arrest and detention; compilation and publication of a consolidated version of all current emergency regulations; continued implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Disappearances contained in its 1991 Report and consideration of the Working Group's recommendation in its 1992 Report.
The intention of the Government of Sri Lanka to share with the Commission, its mechanisms and other interested parties, information on the progress made is noted. The efforts of the Government to arrive at a negotiated political settlement to the problems in the North and the East of the country should be encouraged.
As requested by the Delegation of Sri Lanka, this acknowledgment will be included in the final Report of the Commission and the Statement of the Delegation of Sri Lanka in its entirety in the summary records of this Session.
Situation Report (updated January 1993) presented by Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka, Geneva, 11 March 1993
This Report presents the current human rights and economic situation in Sri Lanka in 9 parts as follows:
2. Restoration of law and order in the South.
3. The Situation in the North and the East of Sri Lanka.
4. Relief and Rehabilitation Measures for the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
5. Prospects for a Long Term Political Solution.
6. Measures for Dealing with Human Rights violations by the Security Forces.
7. Measures Initiated to Deal with Human Rights Concerns Nationally ; and
8. Measures Initiated Internationally to Deal with Human Rights Concerns.
9. Economic Performance & Potential for Growth
1.1. In the past few years allegations concerning human rights violations in Sri Lanka have been voiced by foreign governments, NGOs and individuals. These allegations have engaged the serious concerns of the government of Sri Lanka. The alleged violations pertain to distinct but interrelated situations in (a) The Northern and the Eastern Provinces; and (b) The South.
1.2. With regard to the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, this report outlines the measures taken by the Government to ensure security conditions for the civilian population of all communities (Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala) and to counter the threats posed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (The LTTE) who is attempting to create a separate mono-ethnic one party state on racist lines by violent means. The report also provides details of the current negotiations which are aimed at a permanent political solution to the vital issues related to the Northern and the Eastern Provinces.
1.3. With regard to the South, the law and order situation has returned to normal and economic activity has resumed. The return of stability, combined with the benefits of economic liberalization will contributes towards eliminating the socio-economic root causes that were to a large extent responsible for the youth unrest in the South. Concerning the allegations relating to alleged past excesses by the security forces and the residual violence alleged to be taking place in the South, this report details the measures taken by Sri Lanka and the results achieved.
1.4. The Government of Sri Lanka has acknowledged (in its statements to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and to its related bodies) the gravity of the human rights problem in the country, in the context of terrorist violence and the response of the security forces thereto. It has assumed responsibility for dealing directly with this problem. In areas other than the North and the East, normalcy prevails, and democratic institutions are fully functioning. The Government is vigorously pursuing political initiatives to achieve a consensus solution to the problems in the North and the East. Sri Lanka, being a democratic country, has for over sixty years relied on a electoral verdict for formation of Governments. The Government of Sri Lanka is therefore deeply conscious of its accountability to the population.
1.5. Bearing in mind its obligations under the two principle Covenants on Human Rights to which it is a party, Sri Lanka will continue to co-operate with the United Nations for the promotion and protection of human rights.
2. RESTORATION OF LAW AND ORDER IN TEE SOUTH.
2.1. The Government has adopted a long-term approach to deal with conditions which gave rise to the Jonathan Vimukti Peramuna (Peoples' Liberation Front - JVP) in the South. It has sought to identify the complex socio-economic and political shortcomings of the system with a view to implementing necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such violence through addressing their root causes. Accordingly, a Presidential Youth Commission was appointed in October 1989 to study and report on the causes of unrest among the youth. Almost. all the recommendations of the Commission were accepted by the Government and are being implemented. In January 1993, the Ministry of Youth Affairs reported that the major recommendations of the Presidential Commission has been implemented.
3. THE SITUATION IN THE NORTH AND THE EAST OF SRI LANKA..
3.1. The resumption of violence and the renewed campaign of terror in the North and the East of Sri Lanka by the LTTE in June 1990 resulted in the disruption of the process of negotiations initiated by the Government. Since then, the measures adopted by the Government have been of a reactive nature, solely aimed at restoring law and order and protecting the civilians of all communities (Tamil, Muslim & Sinhalese) living in these areas.
3.2. Human rights groups have expressed their concerns over the alleged excesses by the security forces in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has taken the maximum possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties in the combat against guerillas who often mingle with the civilian population. In
the process, regrettably civilian casualties have occurred. Excesses are also reported to have been committed by individual members of the security forces. (See section 6 on Measures for Dealing with Excesses by the Security Forces).
4. RELIEF AND REHABILITATION MEASURES FOR THE NORTHERN AND THE EASTERN PROVINCES.
4.1. Apart from the measures to prevent excesses by the security forces, the Government has initiated a significant relief and rehabilitation programme for the civilians living in the two provinces. This step was taken to ensure the uninterrupted provision of essential consumer items and services.
4.2. A massive operation at a substantial financial cost of approximately US $ 5 million per month has been launched by the Government in order to alleviate hardships posed to civilian life as a result of the LTTE's violent hold on certain areas. A Commissioner-General for Essential Services (CGES) with wide powers was appointed in June 1990, in order to provide relief and rehabilitation services to the affected population. In the transport of essential consumer items to the North, the CGES is assisted by the ICRC. Around 86,353 metric tons (MT) of Government relief supplies were sent to the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu and Mannar, in the North by the CGES in the course of 1992. A fleet of vessels has been chartered to supply the essential items by sea as the LTTE has destroyed rail and road links with the North. During 1992 the CGES chartered 7 ships which did a total of 35 voyages carrying food and other essentials to the Jaffna district and Mannar island. A Committee of representatives of Ministries involved in the provision of essential items ensure smooth and continuous supply.
4.3. Welfare centres and open relief centres and camps have been set up by the Government and UNHCR to provide shelter and other basic needs for those who are fleeing the areas of conflict, as well as for returnees from South India who are temporarily unable to return to their places of origin due to LTTE activities. "The primary function of UNHCR is to finance, organize and escort convoys of trucks transporting government provided food (ie. rice, flour, sugar and lentils) and other essential items (ie. edible oil, soap) to the Centres". (UNHCR Excomm. Document No. A/AC.96/793 (Part II) para 2.12.31).
4.4. Sri Lankans who fled the terrorist violence of the LTTE and sought refuge in India are now returning to Sri Lanka. They are being encouraged to return to their homes in areas which have been cleared of the LTTE, and are now safe for civilian life. By the end of 1992, approx. 30,000 Sri Lankans had come back under this programme. The UNHCR has made an appeal to the international community in June '92 for a programme estimated at US $ 6.2 million to assist the resettlement and rehabilitation of returnees.
4.5. During 1993, approx. 8000 - 10000 persons per month are expected to return from South India until a remaining total of around 90,000 persons are repatriated. Already burdened with an internally displaced population created by the acts of the LTTE, and whose need cost the government approximately US $ 5 million per month; the government may find it difficult to absorb the cost of rehabilitating new flows of returnees without the help of the international community.
5. PROSPECTS FOR A LONG TERM POLITICAL SOLUTION.
5.1. The Government of Sri Lanka has clearly expressed its policy for a negotiated political settlement and continues to explore all avenues for such a solution. Some legislative measures have already been taken by the Government to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Tamils (ie. the 13th amendment to the Constitution which devolved administrative power to nine Provincial Councils, the elevation by the Constitution of Tamil to the status of a official language, along with Sinhalese). In addition, the Government has expressed its resolve that the LTTE should not be able to by-pass the electoral process and enforce a mono-ethnic one-party state in the North and the East through terror and violence. The Government has nevertheless clearly stated its readiness to a political solution through negotiations. It has, meanwhile continued its dialogue with the recognized political parties of Tamil and other communities, initially within the framework of the All Party Conference (APC) and later through the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed in September 1991.
5.2. The PSC, which is chaired by a Member of Parliament (MP) of the opposition party, was actively engaged in discussing proposals made by its members with a view to evolving a national consensus. These negotiations, which lasted till December 1992 included the ruling United National Party (UNP) and the opposition, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), eight Tamil parties - the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), and the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) - also took part in the negotiations along with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) as well as other political parties. (Apart from the CWC, the TULF, and ACTC, all other Tamil parties were former militant groups which during post 1987 period joined the democratic political main stream).
5.3. On 12 December 1992, the PSC concluded its deliberations on the basis of which the government is expected to conduct further negotiations with interested political parties in order to arrive at an acceptable package of devolution of power.
5.4. The LTTE alone has opted not to join in this process of democratic dialogue aimed at a moderate non-violent, democratic and durable solution to the problems involving the North and the East acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka.
5.5. In early October, 1992, the President of Sri Lanka publicly stated his willingness to recommence the negotiating process unilaterally broken by the LTTE in June 1990, provided that it was willing to
(a) stop the use of arms;
(b) agree to join the democratic process;
(c) recognize the right of other Tamil groups to contest elections.
It is therefore clearly seen that the doors are wide open for the LTTE to join the negotiating the process once they agree to meet these basic principles.
6. MEASURES FOR DEALING WITH HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY THE SECURITY FORCES.
6.1.In order to deal with excesses alleged to have been committed by the security forces, the Government has taken several measures. Some of these measures were suggested in the recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Disappearances and the Amnesty International, following their visits to Sri Lanka in 1991.
(a) The Government of Sri Lanka has publicly accepted the responsibility for investigating the alleged excesses and prosecuting offenders. eg. A Special Presidential Commission was set up to investigate into the Kokkadicholai case and the Government agreed to implement the recommendations relating inter alia, to the payment of compensation to the victims or their next of kin who suffered death, injury or damage to property. Further the Army court-martial procedures initiated have found an Army officer guilty and has since been discharged from the Army.
(b) The Ministry of Defence has issued clear directives to the security forces for the strict observance of and respect for human rights. It has also set up mechanisms to increase their awareness of and adherence to the universally recognized principles of human rights and humanitarian law.
(c) In keeping with the directives, senior service commanders pay regular visits to sensitive areas in the North and the East. It is recalled that it was in the course of such a visit on the 8 August 1992, that 10 senior officers of the Army and Navy were killed by an LTTE landmine at Kayts in the Jaffna District.
(d) Members of the security forces are instructed to report immediately all cases of detentions to the Human Rights Task Force ( Please see para 7.2 (b) ).
(e) Action is presently underway to expedite cases pending in courts against members of the security forces.
7. MEASURES INITIATED TO DEAL WITH HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS.
7.1. In order to deal with human rights violations reported to have occurred in any part of Sri Lanka, the Government has taken two types. of measures: measures initiated nationally and measures taken in co-operation with international agencies and NGOs.
7.2. Measures Initiated Nationally.
(a) The Independent Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Involuntary Removals of Persons.
The five member Commission, appointed on 11 January 1991, is headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge and consists of independent members of the judiciary and the legal profession with a mandate to inquire and report on complaints of involuntary removals alleged to have taken place during the period January 11 1991 to 10 January 1992. Subsequently, the mandate of this Commission was extended to cover cases alleged to have occurred during the period 11.01.1992 - 10.01.1993.
The general public is free to provide information to this Commission which commenced its sittings on August 5, 1991. The proceedings of the Commission are open to the public and freely reported in the press. During the period 11.01.91 -10.01.92, a total of 541 allegations, from all parts of the country, and falling within the Commission's mandate, were received. Forty nine allegedly disappeared persons were traced, and 460 cases are under investigation.
Similarly, during the period 11.1.92 - 21.12.92, ninety two allegations were received by the Commission of whom 31 persons were traced and 58 cases are presently under investigation.
Bearing in mind the need to expedite its work, the Commission has adopted a change in the procedure at open inquiries, which has enabled their quicker disposal. This will also enable the Commission to accelerate its current pace in dealing with inquiries.
To enable the public to avail themselves of the services of the Commission, it has opened "branch offices" by appointing authorized officers at selected Kachcheris (District ,Administrative Offices) in Amparai, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee (in the Eastern province), Jaffna and Mannar (in the Northern province) and Hambantota and Matara (in the Southern province). These officers are now authorized to receive or record complaints on behalf of the Commission, and forward them to the Commission for necessary action.
7.2.(b)The Human Rights Task Force. (HRTF)
A Human Rights Task Force chaired by a retired senior Judge has been established as an independent institution. The mandate of the HRTF is complimentary to and supportive of other organizations dealing with humanitarian concerns including the ICRC. Powers and responsibilities of the HRTF pertain to detainees and those held in custody.
The work of the HRTF includes unrestricted and unannounced visits to all persons in detention. From the inception of its work (10 August 1991), to 31st December 1992, the HRTF made: -
- 155 visits to detentions & rehabilitation camps
- 370 visits to police stations
- 18 visits to army camps, principally in the Eastern province and Vavuniya district in the Northern Province
- saw a total of 1225 detainees during visits to army camps and police stations.
Any member of the public can obtain a computer data print out with regard to any person in detention. Members of the armed forces and police are under instructions to inform HRTF promptly when an arrest is made.
The HRTF provides necessary legal services to the detainees by ensuring that lawyers and relatives are allowed scheduled visits. The detainees can make applications to the Supreme Court to test the legality of their detention. There have been many instances where such applications have received favourable rulings by the court.
Whenever the HRTF learns of an impending release, a representative is sent to monitor the identity of the person taking over the detainees. The released detainees are encouraged to be in touch with the HRTF on a voluntary basis in order to ensure their safety.
In order to make the HRTF more accessible to people all over the country, it has been decided to decentralize its work by establishing regional offices. Initially three regional offices have been established in Batticaloa (in the East), Kandy and Matara (in the South). Arrangements are underway to establish new regional offices in Vavuniya (in the North), Trincomalee (in the East) and Anuradhapura and Badulla. A twenty four hour information service has been established at the HRTF Head Office in Colombo to allow relatives and others concerned to make inquiries at all times. This service was started on January 6, 1992.
7.2.(c)The Committee for Rehabilitating and Releasing Detainees (Jayalath Committee)
With regard to those taken into custody on suspicion of subversive activity, the Government, through the Jayalath Committee has worked towards expediting the release of those against whom there is no evidence concerning illegal activities. With respect to those kept in detention (4158 persons as on 31.12.92 in 5 detention camps), these persons will be released subsequent to rehabilitation or on court orders. Thus on 31.12.92, there were 1201 detainees in 8 rehabilitation camps being provided with vocational training in order to reintegrate them into society. This training was provided with the assistance of public and private sector organizations as well as both local and foreign NGOs. The ICRC's assistance has been obtained for monitoring such programmes. The release process of detainees has gained momentum and those peripherally involved in subversive activities have been released after rehabilitation. Only those classified as "hard cores subversives will be held, and even these will be released subsequent to the Supreme Court review of nearly 1000 fundamental rights cases now pending.
7.2.(d)Senior Officials' Committee.
A Committee of senior officials drawn from the Presidential Secretariat, the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice and from the Services continue to monitor alleged human rights violations and expedite implementation of recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Disappearances and the Amnesty International which have been accepted by the Government. This Committee maintains contacts with members of the public, NGO's and the Diplomatic Corps.
7.2.(e)Other Institutional Arrangements.
The Supreme Court and independent entities such as the Bar Association of Sri Lanka are engaged in providing legal redress under the normal laws of the country. The following are the details of Fundamental Rights cases processed through these institutional arrangements:
1990 1991 1992 Application filed 165 300 Figures not Compensation awarded 45 08 available Dismissed 74 45
7.2.(f) National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
A consensus was reached at the All Party Conference to enact legislation for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission with a mandate to enlarge upon the existing guarantees of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution and to provide practical safeguards to facilitate the effective observance of these rights, the NHRC will be established after receiving the approval of the Parliament.
7.2.(g)Studies on Emergency Regulations. (ER)
The Human Rights Department of the University of Colombo has undertaken a detailed study of the relevance of all Emergency Regulations currently in force. This study will enable the government to decide on the ER's that may be discontinued, taking into consideration the present circumstances.
8. MEASURES TAKEN IN COOPERATION WITH UN AND OTHER NTERNATIONAL AGENCIES AND NGOS.
8.l.(a)UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
At the invitation of the Government, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited Sri Lanka in October 1991, and made a follow up visit in October 1992, in relation to their recommendations. During both visits the Working Group was provided all facilities and free access to all persons and areas of interest to them. The Government of Sri Lanka is awaiting the Second Report of the Working Group which will be presented to the 49th UNCHR in February/March 1993.
8.2.(b)UN Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions.
The Government has extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions to visit Sri Lanka. His response to the invitation is awaited.
8.2.(c)The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The UNHCR was invited to Sri Lanka in 1987 and since then it is contributing greatly to the Government's programme for displaced persons in the North and the East, as well as for the returnees from India. The government has extended its fullest cooperation to the UNHCR during the five years of its presence in Sri Lanka.
8.2.(d)Cooperation with other UN Mechanisms.
The Government has continued its co-operation with all UN bodies dealing with human rights and has voluntarily provided fullest possible information to all 'monitoring mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Communications (under 1503 procedure) as well as the
Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and the Commission on Human Rights.
8.2.(e) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
In order to ensure that international humanitarian norms regarding detainees and affected persons are maintained, the Government of Sri Lanka has invited the ICRC to carry out its humanitarian mandate by visiting prisons and detention centres to observe conditions therein. The ICRC has access not only to all security and detention authorities, but also to members of the political executive at the highest level. The ICRC also facilitates the despatch of regular relief supplies provided by the Government for the civilian population in the Northern Province.
9. ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE AND POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH
9.1. The return of stability in the South of the country has enabled the successful relaunching of Sri Lanka's economy on the lines of its adopted policy of a liberalized export oriented free market economy. Unproductive public sector ventures have been "peoplized" (or "privatized") in a new partnership in production between the workers and managers. The state-run plantations, a mainstay of Sri Lanka's economy for decades, have been restructured to increase production through better management under private sector companies. The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (inaugurated in 1977 as the GCEC) which encourages and facilitates foreign investments show an increase in foreign investment project approvals in the course of 1992 amounting to US $ 400 million.
9.2 These macro economic policies aimed at economic growth have been complemented by a necessary micro level "human development approach". Thus, simultaneously, the Janasaviya (Poverty Alleviation) Programme, the 1.5 million Housing Programme, as well as a programme of land alienation have been undertaken. Similarly, welfare measures in the health and education sectors are provided to the population (ie. free education, free school uniforms and midday meal and free health service).
9.3. Such efforts aimed at vertical "trickling down" of economic benefits to all sectors of the population are undertaken simultaneously to similar efforts towards horizontal and geographical "spreading out" of these benefits. (ie. decentralized administration by the establishment of Provincial Councils, and more recently of 200 Divisional Secretariats in the country). These administrative measures will ensure the smooth functioning of the rural industrialization started by establishing 200 export oriented garment factories in less developed areas of the country. This project, which will be operational from 1993 will be a link between the global and rural economies, and will provide employment to over 100,000 youth.
9.4. The following socio-economic statistics give an indication of the potential of Sri Lanka's man-power and resources in a favourable local and international context.
Area 62,337 Sq.km. Population 17.2 million Population growth rate (% p.a.) 1.4 Literacy 89.4% GNP per capita US $ 510(highest in South Asia) Growth of Industrial Sector 11%p.a. Estimated GDP growth rate (1992) 4.5% Agriculture as % of GDP 22.8% Average life expectancy (years) for males and females 69.7
Comparative figures for 1988 and 1992
1988 1992 GDP (SL Rs.) 222 Billion 435 Billion Inflation 22% 12% Budget deficit 15% GDP below 10% Total value of exports('89) (SL.Rs.) 56,175 Million 84,376 Million Foreign Aid (US $) 600 Million 800 Million Value of Industrial exports (SL.Rs.) 28,496 Million 50,735 Million
Statement by Sri Lanka Ambassador under Agenda Item 4 on Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories including Palestine and Agenda Item 9 on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation.
Mr. Chairman, the majority of delegations seated in this hail as representatives of sovereign states owe their presence to the historic process of realization of the right to self determination. Some delegations like mine were fortunate to this process more than four decades ago, to some, it is a more recent reality, and to few others it still is a goal to achieve. Beginning with the very first Article of the charter of the United Nations and the two covenants this right has found subsequent reiteration in many decisions and declarations of the various organs of the United Nations. In fact, some of the greatest successes of the United Nations have been in the role it has played in bringing about the realization of this right to people under foreign occupation and colonial rule.
The stamp of moral approval historically granted by international law to this right should not blind us however to current realities, to a proliferation of ominous interpretation that seek legitimacy under the guise of the right to self determination.
If indeed the demands of all groups advocating separatism on whatever grounds, whether religious, ethnic or cultural were to be justified on the basis of this right, not only would the United Nations itself be an unviable proposition due to a proliferation of economically unstable and politically fragmented states; the very process of democratization itself would be retarded.
For it is not conceivable that self determination interpreted in terms of narrow group identification for purposes of political gain coupled with violent terrorist means, could advance democracy or pluralism.
Simultaneously, the freedoms that democratic states alone permit for the existence of such opportunistic groups) can be threatened by their violently disruptive impact on the social fabric of states.
Mr. Chairman, legally too, the complexities are multiple. Principles of unity, territorial sovereignty and territorial integrity collide irreconcilably with the right to self determination when the latter seeks justification to divide existing states. When such activities are aided and abetted from across territorial boundaries, principles of sovereignty and non interference in the internal affairs of states, the very foundation of the existence of the system of nation states, are undermined.
Mr. Chairman, within democratic pluralist states, the root causes that urge opportunistic extremists to advocate secession under the guise of self determination can be addressed by various means. Secular policies, strengthening of respect for human rights and minority rights, decentralization and devolution of power according to appropriate models are only some examples. The frequent refusal of extremists bent on separatism to consider these alternatives merely serve to prove that the cry for self determination can be exploited as a means to an ulterior goal; and not as the goal itself.
Clearly Mr. Chairman, the moral and legal support historically granted to self determination needs careful rethinking in the light of current realities. An exaggerated justification of this principle can be a threat to international peace and security and thus undermine the very purpose of the United Nations.
Let me now turn to a situation which the international community has recognized as one of the most persistent aberrations of the right to self determination.
Mr. Chairman, year after year, the attention of the United Nations and the international community has shifted from crisis to crisis in various parts of the world. Yet one crisis, which has persisted on the agendas of the Security Council, the UNGA and this very Commission seems still to defy solution. For over 40 years, the question of Palestine which lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, compounded by the Israeli acquisition by force in 1967 of Arab territories including the Syrian Golan Heights has presented one of the most serious challenges to the international community. In all international fora, Sri Lanka has consistently upheld, and continues to uphold the inalienable right to self determination of the Palestinians and other Arabs of the occupied territories.
Mr. Chairman, as noted in the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practises, chaired by Sri Lanka, and contained in document A/47/509, "occupation itself engenders a situation where human rights violations will occur" . The Report documents the continued deterioration of the living conditions in the economic and social fields in the occupied territories, as well as the appalling consequences of the Israeli administration of justice in the occupied territories denying such basic guarantees as the right to a fair trial and freedom from torture. Over the last few years, the occupation has led to the popular uprising in the form of the Intifada, repressed by indiscriminate and disproportionate use of violence by the Israeli authorities.
Israel's aggressive policy of annexation of territory continues with the creation of new Israeli settlements. The recent expulsion of the 400 Palestinian civilians from the occupied Palestinian territory including Jerusalem in grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention is but the latest incident of this history of violations resulting from Israeli occupation.
Mr. Chairman, in a decade which has witnessed a renewed role for the United Nations in the international system, and in which enforcement of UN resolutions have been of priority, it is only appropriate that Israel abide by basic tenants of international law, and respect those Security Council, General Assembly and CHR resolutions calling for the end to occupation, expulsion, and acquisition of land by force. The latest example of Israel's disregard for Security Council resolution 799 has led to accusations of double standards within the United Nations. Further, the international community including this Commission has repeatedly affirmed that the 4th Geneva Convention is applicable to all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967 including Jerusalem.
Mr. Chairman, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 30th November, the Secretary General of the United Nations reiterated that three elements remain basic to the desired settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict in the Middle East:
- the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Arab territories occupied since June 1967;
- respect for the sovereignty territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the region, including Israel, and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries;
- a solution to the Palestinian problem based on the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people, including self determination.
Sri Lanka welcomes recent steps taken by all parties to advance the peace process and remain optimistic of the Madrid initiative launched over a year ago. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 provide the framework for this dialogue and highlights the role and responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine. The UN should continue to play an active role in assisting the parties concerned in achieving a just and lasting peace in the region. Thank you Mr. Chairman.