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Commission deeply concerned by President’s attack

Graphic: Entrance to the Commission's office, Colombo

The Commission has expressed its "deep concern" over a series of accusations made against it by the country's President.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) has expressed its "deep concern" over a series of accusations made against it by the country's President Maithripala Sirisena.

The Commission said in a statement that the President's criticism that it called for a report on the deployment of Special Task Force (STF) at the Angunakolapellassa was within the legal mandate of the Commission tasked with ensuring the safety of prisoners.

President Sirisena told parliament that the Commission was questioning the STF deployment at the prison and was acting in an obstructionist manner.

The Commission denied this charge and said that it had merely sought clarifications about the move from the STF chief, following concerns raised by some inmates.

"We must remind ourselves of the fact that many detainees have a reasonable fear of the deployment of external armed officers due to the violent series of events that took place in 2012 resulting in the murder of 27 detainees," the Commission said in its statement.

"Therefore, we would like to point out that the Commission has undertaken its lawful mandate in a fair manner."

The Commission also refuted President Sirisena's accusation that it had delayed the vetting of Sri Lankan troops deployed for United Nations peacekeeping operations.

President Sirisena had claimed that the deaths of two Sri Lankan UN peacekeepers in Mali could have been avoided had the Commission cleared a new deployment of soldiers to replace those who had stayed on for an extended period while waiting for their replacements.

"We inform Your Excellency with great respect that it is absolutely incorrect to state that bringing back the Sri Lankan troops from Mali was delayed because of delays on the part of the Human Rights Commission," the statement said.

"The vetting process was suspended until a Standard Operating Procedure was drafted, which was a unanimous decision made by all stakeholders (the military, the police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Human Rights Commission and the United Nations)."

The decision was taken at a roundtable discussion in June 2018, involving all the parties with the aim of solving a "multitude of issues" during the initial stages of the vetting process, the Commission said.

"In the past three years, we have worked tirelessly to build respect for and trust in the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka," the statement said, which resulted in the Commission being accredited with 'A status' by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in 2018.

"Not only are we disheartened by the unjust criticism but are also discouraged," the Commission said.

"We appreciate any just critique and consider it to be a step to further growth and betterment, which we believe will serve the country better."

Date: 8 February 2019

Source: Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka


Image credits

  1. Entrance to the Commission's office, Colombo - APF/Faso Aishath