Minister of Health and Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne responding to the recent comments made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka emphasized the need of not antagonizing the United Nations.
Emmerson met the press in Colombo on the very day (15 July) Navy Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake was remanded by the Fort Magistrate on the charge of aiding and abetting in enforced disappearances of 11 youths when the final phase of the North and East separatist war was in progress between 2008 and 2009.
Colombo Fort Magistrate on Wednesday (19) further extended the remand period of Navy Commodore Dassanayake till 2 August for further interrogations to be carried out on the enforced disappearances of 11 youth.
Therefore, the press briefing of the UN Special Rapporteur which had taken place simultaneously on the day Commodore Dassanayake was remanded had highlighted the UN’s concerns over the delays in Sri Lanka implementing the Geneva Resolution and on the other hand the judicial process which is in place on dealing with human rights violations such as abductions and enforced disappearances with the arrest of Navy Commodore D. K. P. Dassanayake.
Minister Rajitha Senaratne speaking at the Cabinet media briefing last Wednesday announced that five of the abducted youths were about to leave for their higher studies to Australia and they were abducted merely for extortion.
The arrest of Commodore Dassanayake over his alleged involvement in the abduction of the youth being the tip of the iceberg, the involuntary disappearances of several thousands of others particularly of those who had surrendered to the Security Forces at the end of the separatist war still remain a mystery.
Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was furious over the comments made by Ben Emmerson on the human rights situation in the island. The Justice Minister went on to say that the views expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur challenge the sovereignty of the country.
Ben Emmerson had expressed his views after collecting hard evidence following his visits to the Welikada Magazine Prison and the Anuradhapura Prison.
The UN Special Rapporteur also said that none of the people he met from the Government, Police or other State players denied the fact that there was the problem of systematic of torture in Sri Lanka.
According to Emmerson in a number of instances brought to his attention, these allegations had either been supported by independent medical evidence or accepted by the judiciary as the basis for excluding confession at trial.
Human rights situation
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) began to pay attention on the human rights situation in the country soon after the end of the separatist war and according to the Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Senaratne, it was the human rights violations committed during Mahinda Rajapaksa regime that had led to the regime’s collapse and made the UNHRC to focus on Sri Lanka with the resolution co-sponsored by the country on improving the human rights situation in the country.
So Minister Senaratne very rightly said that criticizing the UNHRC for expressing its concerns on improving the human rights situation in the island will even damage the present Government’s relations with international institution.
The UN Rapportuer during his visit to the island had concentrated more on the State torture endemic under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, denial of justice to detainees and on enforced disappearances.
However, there are still several human rights issues remaining unresolved in the war-torn Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Minister Senaratne at the Cabinet media briefing had admitted that in the present post-war period there was delay in delivering justice to the people directly affected by war over several humanitarian issues.
Minister Senaratne also admitted that political prisoners have not yet been released, remedial measures have not been found for the involuntarily disappeared persons and the lands of the Internally Displaced Persons were yet to be released.
Elaborating further on the enforced disappearances and the arrest of Navy Commodore Dassanayake, Minister Rajitha Senaratne even gave details on how five of the eleven youths abducted were taken to Trincomalee Naval Base and put in an underground prison.
So the details provided by Minister Senaratne on the abduction of the eleven youths even strengthen the evidence provided by the UN Special Rapporteur on extensive human rights violations in the island.
Rajitha Senaratne said that the hesitancy in complying with the UNHRC had only led to the downfall of the previous regime.
It was not only the previous regime even the LTTE after being a powerful militant outfit for three decades was totally annihilated for its ignorance of the international community’s guidelines on entering the political mainstream by denouncing the armed struggle.
As the Special UN Rapporteur has said that he would submit his findings in Sri Lanka at the next UNHRC session in Geneva in March 2018, as it was pointed out by Minister Rajitha Senaratne falling in line with the UN with a diplomatic approach is the need of the hour for Sri Lanka to put its record straight with regard to human rights issues.