A report on Sri Lanka’s compliance with the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP plus) covering the period 2018-2019 has found that Sri Lanka has continued to make progress on human rights during that period. The EU, however, says it is of particular importance to consolidate and preserve these achievements, notably in the new political context. The EU said that it will continue to monitor the evolution of the situation.
In its conclusions, the report says after 2015, Sri Lanka has restored the independence of key oversight institutions. There has been a significant opening of democratic and civil society space. A process of constitutional reform, including a Bill of Rights began but stalled. Action is underway towards transitional justice and remedy for families of victims for enforced disappearances. A national human rights action plan has been prepared; women will have a larger stake in local governments; a National Plan of Action for Children has been adopted and reform of the juvenile justice system is being prepared.
The report also notes that the Government has engaged with the UN system. With the co sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution 30/1, Sri Lanka made far-reaching commitments on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Nevertheless, according to UN reports, relevant reforms have stalled or slowed down considerably.
Measures taken so far to fulfil Sri Lanka’s transitional justice commitments have brought insufficient progress, including on bringing 16 perpetrators of war crimes to justice and resolving longstanding emblematic cases.
The EU says it will be important that the new presidential administration remains fully committed to the full implementation of UNHRC Resolution 30/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka.
The Government still has to deliver on a number of important reforms that are of direct relevance for the effective implementation of the human rights conventions listed in the GSP+ Regulation. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) remains in place. Legislation to replace the PTA that aims to be in line with international human rights law, including ICCPR and CAT, has been discussed at Parliament, but stands little chance to go forward.
The EU says the Government should ensure that torture allegedly committed by the police and security forces comes to an end, that perpetrators are brought to justice, and should implement its policy of zero-tolerance to the use of torture. This, the EU says, is essential in addressing reports of prevalent impunity in most cases of torture.
The EU also said that the operationalisation of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) is welcome and should deliver truth and accountability to the families of those that disappeared during and at the end of the armed conflict. The OMP needs to be equipped with the necessary resources and capabilities to fully carry out its functions and mandate.
Transposing the Convention on Enforced Disappearances into national law will contribute to this process. Whilst significant progress has been made in the return of land in the former conflict areas, the Government should finalise this process. In 2019, the legislative base for the Reparations Commission has been enacted and Commissioners appointed.
The EU report also notes the Government should, in line with recommendations from the UN Treaty Bodies, actively take forward the Children (Judicial Protection) Bill, provisions on the minimum age of marriage, the amendments to the Land Development Ordinance, and other laws that discriminate against women. It also says the Government should take steps to amend laws that discriminate against Sri Lankans from the LGBTQI community