United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday urged the Sri Lankan Government to swiftly operationalise the Office of Missing Persons (OMP).

Hussein, making the opening statement at the 36th session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, gave an update of human rights issues in 40 countries.

Referring to Sri Lanka in the course of his speech, Hussein reiterated his request to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with a new law in line with international human rights standards.

He also emphasised the need to fast track the release of land occupied by the military and resolving of long-pending cases registered under the PTA.

“In the North, protests by victims indicate their growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms. I encourage the Government to act on its commitment in Resolution 30/1 to establish transitional justice mechanisms, and to establish a clear timeline and benchmarks for the implementation of these and other commitments,” he stated.

“This should not be viewed by the Government as a box-ticking exercise to placate the Council, but as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all its people. The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary,” he added.

Sri Lanka at the UNHRC 34th session held in March this year received a two-year extended timeline to fulfill its commitments undertaken in the 2015 resolution. Sri Lanka co-sponsored the resolution in this regard and it was adopted without a vote.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva led by Ambassador Ravinath Aryasinha represents Sri Lanka at the 36th session of the Council from September 11 to 29.

Hussein in his opening remarks gave priority concern to deteriorating human right situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar, adding that over 270,000 people have fled to Bangladesh in less than three weeks according to the reports reaching the UNHRC.

“Many more people reportedly remain trapped between Myanmar and Bangladesh. We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians” he stated.

Turning to the subject of migration, Hussein expressed his concerns over the US Government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme in six months’ time.

“I am disturbed by the increase in detentions and deportations of well-established and law-abiding immigrants.Some migrants, including longstanding residents, are now so frightened of expedited deportation they refrain from accessing police protection and courtrooms,” he stated referring to latest developments under the Trump administration.

The High Commissioner in his speech also discussed key concerns in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Venezuela, the United States, Turkey, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Mali among others.

The High Commissioner, recalling that he had entered the final year of his current mandate, stated that he would discharge with vigour and determination in the remaining year. 

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