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UN urges Sri Lankan military to return appropriated land and end civilian activities

A United Nations (UN) committee called on Sri Lanka’s military to end its involvement in commercial or civilian activities and begin returning appropriated private lands. 

The UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) concluding observations on the fifth periodic report review on Sri Lanka, released in June, expressed concern that “the military still controls substantial areas of private and public land in the North and East of the country and continues to engage in commercial activities, including farming, tourism, coffee shops and hotels.”

“The first challenge comes from the Sri Lankan military, which works in tandem with commercial enterprises that have an interest in acquiring and profiting from land in the north and east of the country.”

UNCESCR asked the Sri Lankan government to “take measures” to map private and public land under the control of military in view of ensuring its restitution.

The concluding observations highlighted further concern that women-headed households, “in particular those in the North and East,” were vulnerable to poverty, “sexual harassment, and violence including sexual exploitation and bribery by officials.”

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process, the committee found that “these efforts are not clearly articulated with the different policies to realise economic, social and cultural rights.”

See full concluding report here.

The review process included submission from non-governmental organisations.

Criticising the lack of land restitution for fishing communities in the North-East, the Franciscans International report to the UN said,

“The Tamil and Muslim communities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces are still affected by the conflict between the government and LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) despite the end of the war, especially the communities whose traditional villages are still occupied (by the military in the eastern and northern provinces). Resettled people in the north are living amidst military camps and have not been provided adequate facilities and reparations for up to a quarter century of military occupation and use of their lands and houses.”

See more here.