“Four years since the end of the war, the military presence in the north remains considerable,” said UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanetham Pillay in her update to the UN Human Rights Commission on Wednesday. Stating that she is convinced that the continued attention of the Human Rights Council to the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remains critically important and will be making recommendations in March on appropriate ways it could continue that engagement, Ms Pillay in her oral update following her visit to North and East, gave equal importance to Colombo’s bad governance issues in the South, demanding results on both fronts. In the meantime, Tamil Human Rights activists in the island commented that the High Commissioner was shielding the crimes of genocide by ‘balancing’ these crimes against humanity with the crimes of ‘bad governance’ in the South.
“Even the attacks on Muslims need to be viewed with a perspective of the genocidal intent stemming from the Mahawansa-mindset prevailing in the South. Instead, Ms Navi Pillay has taken the usual Establishment-centric way of projecting the crimes as acts of religious intolerance,” a human rights activist in Jaffna, who didn’t wish to be named, told TamilNet.
Navi Pillay was particularly concerned to hear about the vulnerability of women and girls, especially in women -headed households, to sexual harassment and abuse, including at the hands of military personnel.
Responding to Navi Pillay’s oral report, the Sri Lankan representative at the UN Human Rights Council, not only refuted the claim that the human rights situation in the island was critical, but also went on record stating that the High Commissioner had no mandate to make such accusations. He was citing Colombo’s implementation of the so-called LLRC recommendations.
Ms Navi Pillay, who was also citing the LLRC, said she was particularly alarmed at the recent surge in incitement of hatred and violence against religious minorities, including attacks on churches and mosques, and the lack of swift action against the perpetrators.
Since her mission, she has received a compilation of 227 incidents of religious attacks, threats, incitement to hatred against Muslims alone that were recorded between January and July 2013, which will be shared with the Government. There have been numerous other attacks or incitement against Christians and Hindus as well, she noted in her update.
The High Commissioner said she had detected no new or comprehensive effort to independently or credibly investigate the allegations which had been of concern to the Human Rights Council.
However, she only expected Colombo to invite the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the Independent Expert on Minorities.
She was still harping on the implementation of the LLRC, reducing the Tamil national question to a minority issue.
In her update, she noted that a number of military checkpoints and barriers were removed just before her arrival to the island and that these were reinstated after her departure. There is a high level of surveillance of returnees, rehabilitees and detainees who have been released, including of the communities she met.