People frustrated as Sri Lankan peace process delayed

The UN gave Sri Lanka two more years to implement recommendations for lasting peace and human rights
People frustrated as Sri Lankan peace process delayed

Tamil women hold up images of their family members who had disappeared during the civil war, at a silent protest in Jaffna  Sept. 2, 2016.  (Photo by Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP)

Published March 29, 2017 

The U.N. Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution giving Sri Lanka two more years to implement plans to construct peace and justice given in their 2015 resolution but activists say the delay is "frustrating" for Tamil people.

The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway, Germany and several other countries co-sponsored the resolution which was passed without a vote at the 34th session of the UNHRC held from Feb. 27 to March 24 in Geneva.

The council said they recognized that progress had been made but expected Sri Lanka to implement more of the 2015 resolution. The resolution recommends establishing a truth-seeking mechanism, a special court to investigate crimes committed during the final stage of the conflict and broad legal and security sector reforms to improve human rights.

Holy Family Sister Mebal Rodrigo, a psychological councilor who works with families from war-torn Killinochchi, said that the extension will be frustrating for the Tamil people in Northern Province.  

"Already eight years have passed since the war and the expectations of the people are halted once more. The extension will only encourage the government to postpone the process of devolving power, creating accountability and the process of healing and reconciliation," said Sister Rodrigo.

Relatives of some 1,200 people who disappeared in Killinochchi — a former Tamil separatist stronghold — during the war handed over a petition to the U.N. on Feb. 21 seeking justice.

Sri Lanka's former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, oversaw the war's brutal finale in 2009 and rejected international involvement in the peace process.

However, current President Maithripala Sirisena promised reforms and is more engaged with the international community but still insists that reconciliation should be handled domestically.

The government has been criticized for alleged ongoing rights abuses committed against Tamils, including torture, rape and forced disappearances. According to the U.N., the war claimed the lives of at least 40,000 civilians in its final days alone.

Basil Fernando, director of policy and programs at the Asian Human Rights Commission, said the government must honor their promise.

"The legal system is in crisis and the law is clouded everywhere as long as the government delays the solution, people will suffer and lawlessness will spread," said Fernando.

"This is not about U.N., this is about our country and people," he said.

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