Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
30 July-17 August 2001
The Committee considered the seventh, eighth and ninth periodic reports of Sri Lanka (CERD/C/357/Add.3), which were due on 20 March 1995, 1997 and 1999, respectively, at its 1478th and 1479th meetings (CERD/C/SR.1478 and 1479), on 7 and 8 August 2001. At its 1487th meeting (CERD/C/SR.1487), on 14 August 2001, it adopted the following concluding observations.
The Committee welcomes the seventh, eighth and ninth periodic reports of Sri Lanka, as well as the supplementary report presented by the State party. The additional oral and written information provided by the delegation during its presentation is also welcome. The Committee expresses its appreciation for the opportunity to continue its dialogue with the State party.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention
The Committee recognizes that the serious internal situation faced by the State party has not been conducive to the effective implementation of the Convention. The long-lasting armed conflict in the country has resulted in thousands of persons killed and over half a million internally displaced. It is the view of this Committee that military means will not solve the conflict and that only a negotiated political solution, which includes the participation of all parties, will lead to peace and harmony among ethnic communities in the island.
C. Positive aspects
The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Human Rights Commission in March 1997, aimed at,
, investigating and settling human rights complaints, advising the Government in the formulation of relevant legislation and making recommendations to the Government on human rights issues.
It further welcomes the establishment on 20 November 2000 of the Permanent Inter-Ministerial Standing Committee on Human Rights entrusted with the mandate of monitoring and reviewing action taken by government agencies concerning allegations of human rights violations as well as follow up to recommendations made by United Nations human rights mechanisms.
The Committee welcomes the State party’s readiness to cooperate with United Nations human rights procedures and thematic mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights. The ratification on 3 October 1997 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is also an encouraging step.
The Committee welcomes the statement by the Government that they will continue to provide food and other kinds of relief to displaced and other needy citizens.
The Committee notes with approval that on July 2001 media restrictions were lifted. Thus, the system of requiring journalists to obtain permission to visit all areas in the north and eastern provinces is no longer in effect.
329. The Committee notes with appreciation that steps have been taken to address human rights violations, in particular the appointment of three Zonal Commissions of Inquiry to inquire into the disappearances of persons from January 1988 to December 1990.
The Committee notes the Government’s proposal for constitutional reform which includes a devolution of power to regions, as well as its willingness to come to a negotiated political solution leading to,
, the establishment of a regional legislative assembly enjoying federal powers.
It also notes the work of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and National Integration, responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on ethnic affairs.
D. Concerns and recommendations
The Committee is concerned at the restrictions placed on civil and political rights under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations and their allegedly discriminatory application with regard to Tamils. While commending the recent amendments to the Emergency Regulations, and noting that the Emergency Regulations lapsed on 4 June 2001, the Committee reiterates its concern, as expressed in previous concluding observations, that a state of emergency has been intermittently in effect in different parts of the country since 1983. The Committee hopes that the situation in the country will improve so that the state of emergency can be lifted.
Concern is expressed about the situation of civilians living in the north and east of the country, and particularly about those persons internally displaced by the conflict. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to provide assistance to the civilian population in the north and eastern provinces and cooperate with humanitarian agencies.
The Committee is concerned at the fact that a large number of Tamils of Indian origin, particularly plantation workers, and their descendants have still not been granted citizenship and that many of them even continue to be stateless. Tamils without Sri Lankan citizenship are allegedly discriminated against and do not fully enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee recommends that early and effective measures be taken to solve this problem and that these persons should not be threatened with repatriation.
The situation of the country’s indigenous people, the Veddas, and the creation of a national park on their ancestral forestland is of concern. In this context attention is drawn to the Committee’s general recommendation XXIII calling upon States parties to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.
Concerning allegations of violations of human rights, the Committee reminds the State party of its obligation to conduct exhaustive and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations involving racial discrimination and bring to justice those responsible. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to disseminate knowledge of human rights instruments as well as international humanitarian law among security forces and law enforcement officers.
The State party is invited in its next report to provide updated information on the demographic composition of the population, including in the north and east of the island and its breakdown by community, ethnic group and gender. The Committee further recommends that the State party review the categorization of ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.
The State party is further invited to provide information on the following issues: (a) the content of the devolution regime for regions; (b) the scope of restrictions on the movement of Tamils living in the north and eastern provinces; (c) the situation of the Veddas; (d) measures taken to solve the problem of stateless persons in Sri Lanka; (e) measures taken to eliminate racial discrimination among Tamil and other minority groups; (f) the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations, particularly their application to Tamils and other ethnic groups.
It is noted that the State party has not made the optional declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention, and the Committee recommends that the possibility of such a declaration be considered.
The Committee recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted on 15 January 1992 at the Fourteenth Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention.
The Committee recommends that the State party’s reports be made readily available to the public from the time they are submitted and that the Committee’s concluding observations on them be similarly publicized.
The Committee recommends that the State party submit its tenth periodic report jointly with its eleventh periodic report, due on 20 March 2003, and that it address all the points raised in the present observations.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights