• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Sri Lanka: Calling Attention to Human Rights

    ISHARA S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

    The United States recently introduced its second United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka, calling attention to the government’s alleged violations of international human rights law.

    The resolution supports reconciliation efforts and requires government investigation into allegations of human rights abuses and indiscriminate killings of Tamil civilians that allegedly took place during the final days of the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government in 2009.

    The U.S. action in the UNHRC is laudable, especially since it draws attention to the general human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s increasingly authoritative actions that threaten to undermine the very foundations of democracy in Sri Lanka.

    The resolution calls upon the Sri Lankan government to implement “constructive recommendations” made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which include investigation of human rights violations, improved land dispute resolution measures, increased efforts to move toward political devolution, and other notable reforms.

    However, the resolution notes that the LLRC is not a comprehensive solution. Thus, it calls for outside actors to guide Sri Lankan officials as they implement practical solutions in forming a legitimate government.

    The decision to introduce a resolution seems to have been prompted by the alleged violations of human rights carried out during the war with the LTTE and also in order to draw attention to Rajapaksa’s more recent actions that are undermining democracy in general. As Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake said, the U.S. has been “disappointed that there has been some backward movement on democracy” in Sri Lanka.

    In many ways, Sri Lanka’s political designation as a democracy is in name only. The executive no longer has term limits and now has power over Sri Lankan government commissions on human rights, finance, corruption, and many other issues. Such rash actions blurred the distinctions between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and demonstrated that amendments to the constitution are no longer relegated to legislative authority and instead rest within the power of the President.

    Rajapaksa further thwarted the system of checks and balances by his recent removal of the chief justice of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court in January 2013. Since Sri Lanka no longer has an independent judiciary, the Rajapaksa administration is left unchecked.

    The UNHRC resolution helps highlight the human rights problems in Sri Lanka and puts pressure on the Sri Lankan government to move forward with implementation of the findings from the LLRC. But Washington will need to keep up the international pressure in order to stem the systematic undermining of democratic traditions and institutions in Sri Lanka.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    Comments are closed.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×