Challenging Rights Violations in Sri Lanka

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Statement on right violations in the name of drug control in Sri Lanka at the 49th Session of Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on OHCHR Written Update on Sri Lanka

UN Human Rights Council

Forty-ninth Session

28 February – 1 April 2022

Madam President,

The High Commissioner and UN human rights bodies have consistently denounced the ongoing militarisation in Sri Lanka, which appears to have been exacerbated during and through the militarised response to COVID-19.

This developed in parallel with the ongoing militarisation of drug control and treatment in the country, and its negative repercussions on human rights as well as individual and public health.

Civil society has documented a worrying pattern of deaths in custody of persons arrested for drug offences in supposed shoot-outs with law enforcement, or while assisting law enforcement operations. The lack of investigation into these deaths entrenches impunity and the use of violence by state agencies.

Meanwhile, several compulsory drug detention centres continue operating in Sri Lanka – some managed by the army – where detained people suffer humiliation, inhuman conditions of detention, and lack of evidence-based healthcare. Notably, compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation has been acknowledged by UN agencies (including OHCHR and UNODC) as a form of arbitrary detention that should cease immediately.

This ineffective war on drugs is also weighing on the domestic criminal justice system, and is a leading cause of prison overcrowding.

Madam President,

We reiterate our calls to the government of Sri Lanka to adopt a human rights and health centred approach to drug policy, abide by a zero tolerance policy on torture, investigate all deaths in custody, and ensure those found responsible are held accountable.

We also encourage the High Commissioner to include a comprehensive analysis of the human rights impacts of drug control laws and practices in her next update on Sri Lanka to the Council.

Thank you.

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