A senior Human Rights Adviser has been working with the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka since June 2004, advising and supporting the UN Resident Coordinator and UN agencies on strategies to protect human rights and build the capacity of national institutions and civil society to support the peace process. In response to the deteriorating human rights situation since December 2005, OHCHR has explored ways to reinforce its presence in the country, culminating with the High Commissioner’s visit in October 2007. While the Government has not favoured an expansion of OHCHR’s presence, the creation of a new Ministry for Human Rights and Disaster Management in 2006 presented new opportunities for OHCHR to intensify its country engagement. Up to two additional staff members will be deployed on a rotational basis to assist the senior Human Rights Adviser. Sri Lanka will be considered under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2008.
The primary focus of OHCHR’s country engagement with Sri Lanka is to strengthen national capacity to monitor and respond to conflict-related human rights violations. This will involve building the capacity of national protection mechanisms, including the national Human Rights Commission and relevant government Ministries, the security forces, judiciary and civil society. OHCHR is also providing technical support to initiatives that address impunity for human rights violations and ensure effective witness protection, particularly the Commission of Inquiry and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons. OHCHR is also working with its UN partners in implementing a joint programme on human rights arising from the 2008-2012 UNDAF. This includes working with the Government and other stakeholders on treaty body reporting and followup and engaging with the special procedures and the UPR mechanism.