UN: Sri Lanka's national reconciliation at 'risk'

Indo Asian News Service

Geneva, March 3 (IANS) The United Nations has warned Sri Lanka that its road to national reconciliation and stability is threatened by the slow pace of justice for the heinous crimes of the civil war, as well as by continuing rights violations.

There are reports of human rights violations that continue to take place in Sri Lanka, including "harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of violations, police abuse and excessive use of force, and the use of torture," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Friday.

A year-and-half ago, Zeid's office presented the results of an investigation into the Sri Lankan conflict, saying war crimes were committed, and also set forth a series of recommendations to deal with the situation, Efe news reported.

While recognising that advances have been made, the UN also complained that the structures set up for administering justice have been inadequate, lacked coordination and a sense of urgency.

"This critical opportunity in Sri Lankan history cannot be missed. I urge the government and people of Sri Lanka to prioritise justice alongside reconciliation to ensure that the horrors of the past are firmly dealt with, never to recur," Zeid said in a statement.

On March 22, Zeid will present an updated report on the situation in Sri Lanka before the Human Rights Council as it meets in Geneva.

He has hinted that the report shows torture is routinely used by the police during interrogations and investigations.

"Authorities at all levels... need to publicly issue unequivocal instructions to all branches of the military, intelligence and police forces that torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations are unequivocally prohibited and will be punished," Zeid concluded.

--IANS

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