Two successful discussions were conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), separately, with representatives of State authorities and civil societies, on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations which were issued by the UPR working group regarding thematic issues connected with human rights in Sri Lanka in 2008. These discussion were held prior to the second cycle of 14th session of the UPR working group meeting which will be held from 22nd October – 5th November 2012.
The UPR is a new human rights mechanism which was established by the General Assembly resolution 60/251 through which the Human Rights Council(HRC) reviews, on a periodic basis, the fulfillment by each State of their human rights obligations.
The two discussions convened by the HRCSL were held at its head-office in Colombo, on 17th and 18th of April 2012 co -chaired by HRCSL Commissioners, Mrs. Jezima Ismail and Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa.
On 17 April 2012, the HRCSL discussion was held with representatives of State authorities including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Mass Media and Information, Ministry of Social services, Ministry of Resettlement, Ministry of Construction Engineers Services, Housing and Common Amenities, Ministry of National Language and Social Integrations, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Ministry of Environment, Rehabilitation Authority, Department of Police, REPPIA and the Attorney-General’s Department. Among those who took part in this discussion was the Presidential Advisor on Rehabilitation and Convener of the Sub-committee of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on the National Human Rights Action Plan, Professor Rajeeva Wijesinghe, M.P.
During this discussion the participants expressed their views on the successful handling of various issues of human rights during and after the end of the civil war situation and assured that written reports will also be submitted to the HRCSL before the submission of the report by it.
At the discussion held on April 18th, representatives from many civil society organizations including Law and Society Trust, PAFFREL, Heal Lanka, CARITAS, LHRD, IHR, CPA, Right Now, OXFAM and CHA participated and expressed their views on matters arising from the thematic issues in the UPR recommendations. Some also undertook to submit their views in writing.
The Government of Sri Lanka has accepted 52 while expressing a general response to 8 of a total number of 85 UPR recommendations which were given by the working group in 2008. The Government has rejected 25 of the recommendations. The accepted recommendations include the strengthening and ensuring of the independence of human rights institutions such as the HRCSL, to take measures to safeguard freedom of expression, and to adopt necessary measures to safeguard the human rights of IDPs in accordance with applicable international standards.
UPR recommendations such as to extend standing invitations under the special procedures and to accept an independent international HR mechanism on the ground as soon as possible have been rejected by the Government, while it has expressed a general response to recommendations such as to sign and ratify the International Convention for Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearances.
The HRCSL assessed the views and suggestions of the State authorities and civil rights organizations concerned, before submitting its report to the second cycle of the 14th session.
Finally the HRCSL forwarded the first UPR written submission on 23rd of April 2012.