Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka
The UN Human Rights Council’s first session of the year 2021 to be held from 22nd February to 23rd March is the most important because it opens with the participation of member states at the Ministerial level, known as the High-Level Segment. Often, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Human Rights, Justice Ministers and others of similar rank speak at the Council on behalf of their countries and take up issues of human rights around the world.
As in the other two sessions held later in the year in June and September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presents her own reports of the work commissioned by the Human Rights Council. In addition, experts appointed by the Council on thematic issues known as Special Procedures also present their reports on their country visits and studies of human rights situations in the countries designated for scrutiny.
The High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka to be presented at the ‘High Level Segment’ had been shared confidentially with Sri Lanka as is the usual practice with country reports, before being made available to the public. The report however had allegedly been leaked and it is now in the public domain.
The report of the High Commissioner contains a devastating and unprecedented critique of the handling of human rights in the country, and its recommendations have escalated the possible interventions of the Council beyond anything that has been suggested to date.