Workshop in Vavuniya
The Commonwealth Secretariat organized a workshop for staff of our Human Rights Commission and invitees last week. The objectives were facilitate to identify HRC’s role in contributing to the country’s on-going national reconciliation process; share experiences and best practices of ‘A’ accredited NHRIs in contributing to the reconciliation processes of their own countries; facilitate discussions between the HRCSL staff, NGOs, grassroots organizations, community and religious leaders, and senior local administrative officials in the areas directly affected by the former conflict to reach consensus on a collaborative project/s on how to contribute to the on-going reconciliation process AND raise awareness among the Commissioners and staff on how the direct involvement of the HRCSL in the reconciliation process may improve its effectiveness, independence and authority under the Paris Principles.
Status of HRC
Our HR Commission was granted Status ‘A’ in 2000 by the ICC. In 2007 it was downgraded to a’ B’ Status by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC). The ICC was established for the purpose of creating and strengthening national human rights institutions which are in conformity with the Paris Principles.
The Commonwealth and HRC
The Secretary-General in his Departure Statement issued in February from Colombo observed that bolstering the capacity (of the HRC) involved in national reconciliation processes was an area of collaboration with the Secretariat.
In May, the Chairperson of the HRCSL Justice Priyantha Perera and his delegation, which included the Commissioner in charge of the Inquiries and Investigations Division, and Regional Coordinators from Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa – met with the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General in London. They were in London to participate in the Commonwealth Roundtable on Reconciliation. The HRCSL delegation confirmed the areas in which they would appreciate Commonwealth Secretariat support and technical assistance such as – support for the HRCSL to determine its role, as the national human rights institution, in national reconciliation efforts including making firm recommendations to the government on the fast-tracking of issues around language; making public high profile cases of disappearances and sharing the reports widely; engaging in advocacy with government and Parliament around counting and naming the dead; commencing engagement with government on issues of memorialization.
The UN on Role of NHRI’s
The UN Manual on “National Human Rights Institutions: History, Principles, Roles and Responsibilities” on the role of NHRIs in post conflict situations, describes that NHRIs can play both a preventive and a restorative role in such circumstances.
“Reconciliation may ensure that people, especially those that have experienced violations, are able to voice their feelings, experiences and expectations. It may support the rehabilitation of combatants and their reintegration into society. And it helps to create an environment where people can live together again. Ensuring justice may serve to deal with past abuses so as to ensure that there is no impunity for gross human rights abuse.” Continue reading