Full Statement by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, at the conclusion of his official visit
Preliminary findings of the visit to Sri Lanka
Colombo (14 July 2017),
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr. Ben Emmerson, visited Sri Lanka from 10 July to 14 July 2017. He thanks the Government of Sri Lanka for having extended an invitation to visit the country. The purpose of the visit was to assess the progress Sri Lanka has achieved in its law, policies and practice in the fight against terrorism since the end of its internal armed conflict, as measured against international human rights law, particularly since progress in these areas is key to its efforts in ensuring reconciliation, accountability and lasting peace in the country.
The Special Rapporteur commends the transparency and the largely courteous, constructive and co-operative way in which the Government initiated and facilitated this official visit, which allowed a frank and open dialogue. The Special Rapporteur is particularly grateful to the heads of all governmental institutions that he met and to the United Nations Country Team and its Resident Coordinator for the support extended during the visit. He had the opportunity for a constructive and informative exchange of views with the Prime Minister, the Secretary to the President, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development, the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs. He also met, amongst others, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, the Commanders of the Navy, of the Army and of the Air Force, or their representatives, the Chief of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the National Police Commission, the Inspector General of Police, the Chief of the Special Task Force Division, the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, the Chief of the Terrorist Investigation Division and the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. He also met the Minister of Justice.
The Special Rapporteur and his team had discussions with the Attorney General, the Chief Justice, and High Court judges in Colombo, Anuradhapura and Vavuniya. He visited New Magazine Prison in Colombo and the prison in Anuradhapura, and was given an opportunity to meet privately with detainees accused under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, as well as to observe the impoverished conditions in which some of them were detained. He also met with their lawyers and with their families, as well as with other individuals affected by the operation of counter-terrorism legislation and policies in Sri Lanka. Finally, he met with the Chair and one of the Commissioners of the National Human Rights Commission, as well as representatives of civil society.
The Special Rapporteur is fully cognisant of Sri Lanka’s long and complex history of ethnic tensions, and the tremendous security challenges this has generated. For almost 26 years, Sri Lanka dealt with violent acts of terrorism committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam (LTTE), including suicide bombings and political assassinations, which culminated in a prolonged armed conflict that came to an end only in 2009.
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