Nature Of Human Rights In Sri Lanka

Fundamental Rights in Sri Lanka - a documentary is written by Justice S. Sharvananda a former Chief of justice of Supreme Court in Sri Lanka in 1993. The book has discussed the purpose of incorporating fundamental rights in to a written constitution is to ensure that certain principles will not be satisfied and these are protected as principle of fundamental law beyond the reach of lawmaking majorities.

The book clearly explained the concept of fundamental rights. The concept of fundamental rights is that individuals should be protected from the exercise of the government. The concept seeks to protect person from oppression and injustice under the constitution. The book emphasizes the Supreme Court, is the court charged with the duty of safeguarding the fundamental rights and liabilities of people.

Sri Lanka: State of Human Rights 1997 to 2007 [6] are series of annual publication and reports prepared by the Law and Society Trust. These reports seek to describe the current status of human rights in Sri Lanka each year and to assess the extent to which Sri Lanka has fulfilled its obligation to protect the fundamental rights of its citizen in conformity with international obligations.


Ministry of Finance and Planning Sri Lanka Annual Reports from 2005 to 2009 [7] are the official government reports on economy which gives comprehensive description on all the aspects related to Sri Lanka economy including tables and charts. Although the statics indicated are real, the comments and predictions given are one sided.

Sri Lanka State of the economy 2002 to 2009 are series of publications on researches conducted by the Institute of policy Studies. The “Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2009" is the latest annual publication of the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka devoted to a rigorous analysis of Sri Lanka’s economic outlook and emerging key areas of policy concern. The 2009 report also focuses on the Global Economic Crisis, Issues, Impacts and Outlook. It examines the path of the current global economic crisis, the impacts that have been visible in Sri Lanka.


The first Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) schemes were launched in Europe, Japan and the USA in the 1970s, followed by schemes in various other countries. However, the EU’s schemes are the most widely used and 176 countries benefit from them. Beneficiaries must ratify and apply 27 core United Nations and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions relating to such matters as human and labour rights, the environment, and the fight against drug production and trafficking, and corruption [8] .

GSP + is the special scheme under the same GSP scheme extended on December 21 2005, for an additional 15 vulnerable developing countries - Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Moldova, Georgia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka.

This facility was granted to Sri Lanka following the 2004 Tsunami. Due consideration was also given to the fact that the EU considered Sri Lanka as a less diversified, disadvantaged and vulnerable small economy. The scheme provides access to 7200 Sri Lankan products at zero duty into the European Union, based on 50-60 per cent domestic value addition, as per the Rules of Origin [9] criteria stipulated by the regulation.

Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia and one of two countries in Asia benefitting from GSP+ concessions. Sri Lanka’s total exports to the EU under the GSP+ scheme in 2007, stood at €1.8 billion. While apparel represented 60 per cent of total exports, other export products which have benefitted immensely from GSP concessions were fruits and vegetables, fisheries products, leather products, ceramic products, and bicycles.

On completion of first period ,for the period 2009-2011, 16 beneficiary countries have qualified to receive the additional preferences offered under the GSP+ incentive arrangement under following conditions.

Any GSP+ beneficiary country must be considered “vulnerable" in terms of its size or the limited diversification in its exports.

Poor diversification and dependence is defined as meaning that the five largest sections of its GSP-covered imports to the Community must represent more than 75 per cent of its total GSP-covered imports.

GSP-covered imports from that country must also represent less than 1 per cent of total EU imports under GSP.

GSP+ beneficiaries must also have ratified and effectively implemented 27 specified international conventions in the fields of human rights, core labour standards, sustainable development and good governance.


Lot of web sites, newspaper articles and reports have been studied to ascertain actions taken by the GOSL to protect human rights in Sri Lanka.

Amendments to Sri Lanka Constitution. Sri Lanka is a free, Sovereign, Independent and Democratic Socialist Republic and shall be known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The Chapter three of 1987 constitution has protected human rights as Fundamental rights. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to freedom from torture are recognized as rights which cannot be restricted on any ground.

Article 4 of the Constitution requires all organs of government to respect, secure and advance the fundamental rights declared and recognized in the Constitution. Article 126, provides a right of direct access to the Supreme Court to redress violations of fundamental rights. The Article vests the Supreme Court with sole and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question relating to the infringement or imminent infringement of a fundamental right set out in the Constitution. Chapter three of the 1987 constitution is placed at annex A.

Establishing Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was established in March 1997 under the human rights commission Act No.21 of 1996. It was designed to be an apex national body with a multi-functional role, combining investigative, adversary and awareness raising tasks.

Acting under section 3 (2) of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka of the Constitution, Her Excellency the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council has appointed five persons to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, with effect from 4th April 2003.

Appointing Human Right advices in Sri Lanka. 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.

December 2005, Office of the high commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has explored ways to reinforce its presence in the country, culminating with the High Commissioner’s visit in October 2007.

Action by Ministry for Human Rights and Disaster Management. A new Ministry for Human Rights and Disaster Management was created in 2006 and has taken number of positive initiatives in keeping with the policy of the government to focus on human rights concerns and to continue the dialog that has always existed between the government and the international community.

The Human Right Unit of Ministry for Human Rights and Disaster Management supports all the human rights activities of the ministry. Specially in the following areas.

Supporting the development of an overall strategic framework, an action plan, programme and projects for the ministries work on human rights.

Substantive, organizational and logistical support to human rights mechanisms established by or under the ministry, including:

Inter –Ministerial Committee on human rights.

Adversary body to the Minister of human rights.

Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.

National IDP coordination meetings.

Consultative committee on humanitarian Assistance.

Mode of operations for all stakeholders involved in humanitarian and development work in Sri Lanka.

Steering group and six sub committees to draft a new constitutional (Bill of Rights ) for Sri Lanka.

Appointment of four – member committee. On 26th October 2009, President Rajapaksa appointed a four – member committee to examine carefully the allegations of violations of the laws of war during the final stages of the 30-year-long armed conflict along with the European Commission Report of 19th October, 2009.

On 6th November 2009 Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama handed over document captioned “Observations of the GOSL in respect of the Report on the findings of the investigation with respect to the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions in Sri Lanka" to EU.

Proof of Good Governance. A draft Freedom of Information Bill was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in February 2004 after consultation with civil society. Political developments thereafter may have prevented the enactment of the Bill. The World Bank strongly supported the adoption of a Freedom of Information Act as a means to promote accountability and responsiveness in governance in the country.

Credible national investigations. On May 23, soon after the end of the fighting, the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Secretary-General Ban issued a joint statement that promised there would be credible national investigations.

Reply to the US State Department. The government made its proposal in response to a report by the US State Department, which claimed, According to conservative UN estimates, 7,000 civilians were killed and more than 13,000 injured during that period, the final months of fighting, published on October 22, 2009, that detailed hundreds of incidents of alleged laws-of-war violations in Sri Lanka from January through May.

Report of observations of the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka forwarded the ‘Observations of the Government of Sri Lanka’ in respect of the ‘Report on the findings of the investigation with respect to the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions in Sri Lanka’ document no. C (2009) 7999, dated 19 October 2009.

A report by JAAF to EU. The report on ‘Commission notice on (2008/C 265/01) the initiation of an investigation with respect to the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions in Sri Lanka’ forwarded to Director – GSP of European Commission by Ajith Dias Chairman JAAF is a very comprehensive explanation and a good answer for many allegations. Since the report has been send to EU on 20th January 2009, explanations on war crimes during the last phase of the was not included in the report.

Millennium Development Goals forwarded to United Nations. In September 2000, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly in New York to talk of the challenges to humanity in the new millennium. They noted the importance of establishing peace and security, and human rights. Sri Lanka is one of the 191 signatories to the Millennium Declaration, which emerged from the Summit.

The eight Millennium Development Goals are nothing but the confirmation of protecting human rights required by the EU.

Goal 1 :       Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Goal 2 :       Achieve Universal Primary Education

Goal 3 :       Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Goal 4 :       Reduce Child Mortality

Goal 5 :       Improve Maternal Health

Goal 6 :       Combat HIV / AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Goal 7 :       Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Goal 8 :       Develop a Global Partnership for Development

29. This may be the first research done after suspension of GSP+. Hence there was no research paper on the subject to review. Books and various reports were used to find the arguments. News papers were the main literature available on the topic as the issue is current and developing. Situation of GSP+ has been changing time to time according to the decisions of the EU. Hot news, expert comments, editorials and interviews on the subject were mainly appeared in newspapers very often. Hence one of main modes of data collection was also newspapers. Internet was immensely helped to refer many books, reports and newspapers.