The Foreign Ministry refuted the Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2022 report saying it painted an exaggerated and unduly negative picture of the human rights situation in the country.
In a lengthy statement issued yesterday, the Ministry said, “We recognise HRW’s constructive role as human rights defenders but sensationalised and biased reporting during a particularly challenging global economic and social environment risks igniting and aggravating domestic discord”.
The Ministry reiterated that Sri Lanka follows a policy of constructive engagement with the international community including international NGOs such as HRW on matters related to human rights.
Hence it expected, “Responsible, balanced and impartial reporting, by the watchdog,” the Ministry stated. The Ministry referred to the progress made in amending the Prevention of Terrorism Act, accountability, release of detainees under the PTA, freedom of association, the Covid-19 pandemic and the proposed amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance.
The release stated, “At the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year, Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said that Sri Lanka is engaged in pursuing sustainable peace, through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process. Sri Lanka also reiterated its long standing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in line with our own Constitution and our international obligations”.
This message was reiterated recently by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the opening of the ninth session of the Parliament of Sri Lanka on January 18.
The Ministry said that the Government remains accountable to its people in discharging its mandate on all fronts including economic, social and human development as well as the achievement of the SDGs. The work of the independent domestic institutions – the Office of Missing Persons, the Office of Reparations, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation and the Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka as important supportive pillar of this effort have been empowered with financial and other support.
The Ministry added that the Government welcomed bi-lateral visits and visits by UN special mandate holders and facilitated access to all domestic interlocutors.
The Ministry stated, “Domestic civil society partners have been engaged in the efforts to realise SDGs, given their established outreach and expertise on many issues related to development reconciliation and human rights. In addition, Sri Lanka has also invited the Sri Lankan diaspora groups to partner with us as we move forward”.
“Sri Lanka will continue its long-standing cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as with the Council.
Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris had said, “We are open in acknowledging our challenges and as a responsible and democratic Government, we are committed to achieving tangible progress on the entire range of issues relating to accountability, reconciliation, human rights, peace and sustainable development”.
However, Sri Lanka said that the evidence gathering mechanism that was contained in Resolution 46/1 and which led to division in the Council is unwarranted and unhelpful and will lead to politicisation and polarisation in Sri Lanka.