Sri Lanka says UN human rights report a ‘grave distortion and misinterpretation’ of reality

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Responding to the oral report on Sri Lanka at the first meeting of the 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Sri Lanka has rejected the report and its recommendations, claiming that is does not reflect the actual situation in Sri Lanka, and instead gravely distorted and misinterpreted the ground situation within the country.

Speaking further in this regard, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, Himalee Arunatilaka noted that it is “regrettable” that the Office of the Human Commissioner of Human Rights (OCHCR) has “chosen to ignore the democratic resilience of the country and its institutions demonstrated in the past year”.

She stated that Sri Lanka remains deeply concerned about the ever-increasing mandate of the OCHCR, in making sweeping and intrusive comments on all aspects of economic, financial, political, electoral, domestic, budgetary and development policies, adding that the nation strongly objects to “pronouncements on policy matters that are essentially domestic for any sovereign country and are outside the framework of this council”.

Albeit the UN report’s claims that Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is yet to materialize one year after the country’s turbulent anti-government protests and its most severe economic crisis, Arunatilaka highlighted that those who are mandated and possess the required expertise, both domestically and internationally, remain confident in Sri Lanka’s prospects.

Commenting on the report’s references to targeted sanctions, the diplomat stated that Sri Lanka rejects all such references, which are “based on incorrect and unsubstantiated sources, contravening the process of natural justice of universality, impartiality objectivity and non-selectivity”, emphasising Sri Lanka’s commitment towards pursuing tangible mechanisms on human rights through our domestic institutions, having made significant progress in this regard.

Speaking further on these said mechanisms, she pointed out that certain independent domestic mechanisms have made tangible progress, citing the Office on Missing Persons, Office for Repatriations and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation as examples of this said progress.

Moreover, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka highlighted other such examples, including the Anti-Corruption Act which strengthened the financial and functional independence of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Corruption or Bribery (CIABOC), and the ongoing deliberations pertaining to the Anti-Terrorism Bill with the aim of bringing it in line with international standards.

Thus, rejecting all recommendations and conclusions put forward by the UN report in concern, Sri Lanka urged that the written observations submitted countering the report also be given “equal visibility” as the OHCHR report.

Meanwhile, commenting on UN Resolutions 46/1 and 51/1, which have repeatedly been rejected by Sri Lanka, Arunatilaka asserted that the nation vehemently refuses to cooperate with the resolution in question, deeming them ‘intrusive and polarising’.

“We recall that the majority of member states either opposed or abstained from voting on these resolutions in fundamental disagreement with their unacceptable content, in particular the so-called evidence gathering mechanism, the establishment of which remains unprecedented”, the diplomat said in this regard.

Speaking further on Resolutions 46/1 and 51/1, Arunatilaka characterized them to be ‘intrusive and polarizing’, adding that they are upheld only by a handful of countries for reasons “unrelated to human rights and based on their vote-bank domestic politics”.

Highlighting that Sri Lanka has repeatedly pointed out that this is an “unproductive and unhelpful drain on the resources of the council and its member,” she stated that Sri Lanka will not cooperate with it.

Arunatilaka noted, however, that the nation will continue to engage constructively with other mechanisms of the council which have proved productive to the people of Sri Lanka, such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

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