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Demilitarisation, disappeared persons, land return and political prisoners must be addressed - Special Rapporteur on minorities

The Sri Lankan government must immediately address demilitarisation, disappeared persons, land return and political prisoners as the most pressing issues for Tamils and Muslims, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues told the Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

Presenting the report following her October 2016 visit to Sri Lanka, Special Rapporteur, Ms Rita Izsák, said “I acutely felt the mounting frustrations across the country about the pace of progress; a situation that seems even more critical today than it was when I undertook my visit.”

“It was evident that the long conflict and the prevailing culture of impunity that has remained unaddressed have created a clear trust deficit vis-à-vis the State as well as between the communities in Sri Lanka. I observed the polarized social and political environments and divisions that cut across society through ethnic, religious and linguistic lines. Adversarial ethnicization of politics not only works against the reform- and the much-needed national reconciliation processes, but has left the minorities with an overwhelming sense of marginalization. The frustration of Tamils, Muslims, Plantation Tamils or the numerically smaller minorities regarding systemic social and political marginalization was pervasive. In particular, minority women, who are often at the forefront of the struggles for truth and reconciliation, face additional challenges to their inclusion in decision-making and power structures.”

“Five months have passed since my visit, when I urged the Government to seize the momentum and to put in place some immediate, important and concrete measures to clearly demonstrate its political will and commitment to better protect the country’s minorities. Today, I repeat this message. Unless those critical issues which are among the most pressing and emotive, especially for the Tamil and Muslim communities - such as those relating to demilitarization, disappeared persons, land return and security-related detainees – are immediately addressed, there is a real risk that this hard-earned momentum would be lost.”

See here for Ms Izsák’s full statement.