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UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka: Comments by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera

Today we have achieved a path-breaking success in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at the current 30th Session. 

For the last several years, Sri Lanka was repeatedly humiliated by the international community with Resolutions that censured the conduct of our country. Successive resolutions since 2012, adopted by divisive and acrimonious voting, resulted in repeated defeats and isolation for Sri Lanka. 

Although the Government at the time claimed victory through a Resolution in the Human Rights Council in May 2009, that was hardly a victory for the people of Sri Lanka, as that effort failed to achieve consensus in the Council. The Resolution, which was adopted by a vote, antagonised a large number of members of the Council, paving the way for the series of Resolutions that followed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that was an affront to the people of my country and brought disrepute to Sri Lanka. 

It was undoubtedly a period of embarrassmentand dishonour for the peace-loving, democratically oriented people of Sri Lanka who, for decades, had received acclaim among the United Nations community, as consensus builders, moderates and friends with all. 

After almost three decades of conflict ended in 2009, the peace dividend that the people so richly deserved became illusive with each passing day, as impunity reigned, freedom was suppressed and democratic governance was curtailed. The desire of the people of our country to live in peace and harmony was denied to them. The opportunity to unite communities through reconciliation and build a nation that celebrates the rich diversity of our country was squandered away through action that sought to polarise communities even further and isolate the country internationally. 

Allegations of violations of human rights remained unaddressed and kept on mounting in the years following 2009. The nation was faced with international strictures and an investigation. The people of our country were deprived of the opportunity to gain the best knowledge and expertise from the international community, obtain access to markets, attract investment and benefit from economic advancement. 

Today, as a result of the determined efforts of the Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe since January 2015, Sri Lanka has once again succeeded in joining the international community as a responsible, confident and peaceful nation that respects the universal values of freedom, equality and justice. 

We have succeeded in winning over the once divided Human Rights Council to work with the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to achieve meaningful reconciliation through truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence to ensure peace and prosperity for all our people. 

The victory that we have achieved today for the people of our nation, in line with the 100 Day Work Programme and Manifesto of President Maithripala Sirisena, reflects the desire of the people of Sri Lanka expressed twice at elections this year, for justice, rule of law, good governance and accountability in all aspects of life. This includes credible investigations into alleged violations of human rights so that non-recurrence is guaranteed and the people of Sri Lanka can steadfastly progress towards reconciliation, peace and stability with the support and assistance of the international community and all stakeholders living in Sri Lanka and overseas. 

As I have stressed previously as well, defeating terrorism was a necessity. Today, as a result, Sri Lanka has far greater freedom to deal with the causes of terrorism and engage in nation building and peacebuilding. The armed forces of Sri Lanka were once recognised internationally for their professionalism and discipline. The international community recognises this fact and the unfortunate reality that the reputation of the vast majority of the armed forces was tainted in the recent past because of the system and culture created by a few in positions of responsibility. 

The Resolution is in fact an endorsement by the international community of this view and that a credible accountability process will safeguard the reputation and honour of those who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with professionalism. The invitation extended to the Sri Lanka security forces by the UN Peacekeeping Department to increase participation in global UN peacekeeping and the invitation extended to President Sirisena to participate in the Summit on Peace Operations co-chaired by the US President in New York on 28 September are clear examples of this fact.  

We are confident that Sri Lanka has the capacity, expertise and the commitment to implement the provisions of the resolution over a period of time, step by step, taking appropriate action that will ultimately vindicate that our nation and her people are at peace, assuming its rightful place among the community of nations. In tandem, we hope to march towards economic prosperity and social development, with benefits trickling down to all. 

New York
24th September 2015

Comments by Hon. Foreign Minister (In Sinhala)

Relevant Extracts from Article 13 (6) of the Sri Lanka Constitution (Text also below)
 In English, Sinhala & Tamil

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Article 13 (6), Paragraph 02 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka

 Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment, and prohibition of retroactive penal legislation

13. (6)
No person shall be held guilty of an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any offence more severe than the penalty in force at the time such offence was committed.
Nothing in this Article shall prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations.
It shall not be a contravention of this Article to require the imposition of a minimum penalty for an offence provided that such penalty does not exceed the maximum penalty prescribed for such offence at the time such offence was committed.




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