SRI LANKA: The 47th Session of CAT — the government makes empty statements without firm commitments to halt violations 

Yesterday (November 8, 2011) the government delegation gave the state report relating to the questions raised by the Committee against Torture (CAT) at the 47th Session of the CAT Committee. Mr. Mohan Peiris, a former Attorney General and now an advisor to the government presented the report. After making the report the committee members raised a large number of questions for which they sought answers from the government delegation. The government is expected to answer these questions today (November 9).

The session was made available online. You may watch it here.

The opening presentation by the government delegation and their concluding comments at the end of the session demonstrated that the government is not taking this meeting seriously at all and is not making any commitment on concrete issues relating to the violations of the CAT in Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) spent most of its time giving a very general commitment stating that the eradication of torture and ill-treatment is a common concern of all, including that of Sri Lanka. However, it failed to address the causes for the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment in the country and also the widespread impunity. The questions of the constitutional justification of impunity arising out of article 35 of the Constitution, which places the executive president above the law and outside the jurisdiction of the courts, thus making widespread impunity possible; the virtual stopping of serious investigations into torture by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Criminal Investigation Division; the failure to implement the CAT Act, No. 22 of 1994, the problems caused by policy changes at the Attorney General’s Department which now takes the side of the alleged perpetrators, rather than the victims of torture, enormous delays in the judicial process which frustrates any judicial action against torture and other serious defects in the system of the administration which acts to benefit of the perpetrators; the failure of the government to bring before the parliament and pass the witness protection law that has been pending for many years; the enormous defects in the exercise of fundamental rights jurisdiction; the pauper-like compensation awarded for serious violations of torture and the complete absence of the rehabilitation of victims, were all ignored in the government’s presentation. No commitment of any sort was given on any concrete action to remedy these fundamental defects of the administration of justice.

The GOSL harped on about what it calls an Action Plan for Human Rights which is not a law and about which very little known in Sri Lanka. It is more a cabinet paper designed for the purpose of being presented at international forums than for any practical purpose within the country. This Action Plan does not provide any answers to the questions mentioned above.

The overall tone was reflected in the concluding remarks of Mr. Peiris who said that the GOSL agrees “110 percent” with the concerns of the Committee. In view of the absence of any concrete commitment to resolve long standing problems that violate the obligations under the CAT this was nothing more than an empty statement.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-170-2011
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture,