United Nations: With Sri Lanka in the process of drafting a new Constitution, two UN experts have asked the government to put in place a legal framework that will not allow human rights violations to occur and said more reforms are needed for the nation's sustainable democratisation.
"Sri Lanka is taking steps to draft a new constitution, an undertaking that presents an opportunity to reinforce the independence and impartiality of the justice sector and provide more safeguards against torture and other serious human rights violations," said Monica Pinto, UN Special
Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Juan E Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The comments came in a press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The experts, speaking at the end of their official visit to Sri Lanka last week, welcomed that the elections in 2015 had brought an opening in the democratic space.
"The change in government has led to some promising reforms, such as the reinstatement of the Constitutional Council. But more reforms are needed before Sri Lanka can be considered to be on a path to sustainable democratisation," the two experts stressed.
Mendez said testimonies he heard from victims and detainees speaking despite safety concerns, "persuade me that torture is a common practice inflicted in the course of regular criminal and national security-related investigations.
He said severe forms of torture continue to be used although probably less frequently while both old and new cases of torture continue to be surrounded by total "impunity".
He added that while he has been assured by the authorities that confessions alone are not sufficient evidence for a conviction, over 90 per cent of convictions are either solely or mainly based on a confession.
"The government has to ensure that every person detained has access to a lawyer from the moment of the arrest and that every person is properly informed about this right," Pinto added.
The experts noted that legal safeguards are even more limited in the cases brought under Sri Lanka's Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) legislation that applies to investigations into national security-related offenses.
The Act allows for prolonged arbitrary detention without being charged, limits access to a lawyer and provides for statements made to a senior police officer, even when obtained under duress, to be fully admissible in court, they said.
"The government should repeal the PTA. Any legislation to replace it, if considered necessary, should only be adopted after broad and transparent consultations and must fully comply with international human rights standards," the Special Rapporteurs added.
The two experts also highlighted significant delays in the administration of justice in Sri Lanka....