Norway welcomes the decision to convene this special session on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
Ever since the direct peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) ended in 2006 Norway has urged both parties to return to the negotiation table. However, it became evident that both the LTTE and the Government decided that their chosen path would be war. All through the armed conflict Norway urged both LTTE and the Government to adhere to international humanitarian law to spare the life of the civilians trapped in the conflict zone. We deeply regret the loss of so many civilians’ lives over the past few months. We still think this was unnecessary and preventable.
Nevertheless, we welcome and are relieved that the fighting is over. Furthermore, it is positive that the Sri Lankan Government has stated their commitment to start a dialogue to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The legitimate grievances of all communities in the country must be addressed in this dialogue, in order to come to a political settlement and a sustainable peace. We welcome the recent announcement by Mr. Pathmanathan stating that the LTTE has decided to give up violence and agreed to fight for the rights of the Tamils with peaceful and democratic means
To strengthen the reconciliation process the protection of human rights is a vital element. Norway is deeply concerned about the current human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
More than 270 000 people have fled their homes and are entirely dependent on emergency aid. Norway calls upon the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the UN, ICRC and other humanitarian organisations full and unhindered humanitarian access to the affected population. The ICRC and UN must also be granted full access to the screening and registration processes of the internally displaced persons. The affected people must be able to return to their homes and to normal, peaceful life as soon as possible. Norway welcomes the Sri Lankan Government’s assurances that the internally displaced civilians will be resettled within 180 days. The return process must be conducted in accordance with international humanitarian principles.
Furthermore, we urge the Government to take measures to improve the situation for media freedom in Sri Lanka. Media should also be granted access to all parts of Sri Lanka, to be able to report independently on the situation.
The conflict in Sri Lanka has led to many accusations of violations of human rights. The Government must rectify the culture of impunity that has been prevailing in Sri Lanka, and do it’s utmost to promote and reinforce rule of law in the country. Human Rights defenders must be protected and respected, as they have an important role in the much needed reconciliation process that must take place from now on.
The parties to the conflict bear responsibility for respecting international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect civilians. Events that occurred during the conflict and led to substantial civilian casualties should be investigated by an independent body.