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Outgoing UN human rights chief commends Sri Lanka

Outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has commended Sri Lanka for cooperating with the UN system, following a period of fraught ties with the UNHRC over the country’s rights record.

Hussein was speaking at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva where he presented his last global update in a regular session, on Monday (18).

He praised Sri Lanka for allowing at least five visits by UN rights officials in the last five years.

“I note and commend the following States which have hosted at least five visits by thematic mandates in the last five years: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Chile, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Ukraine, the UK and the US,” he said.

He also noted a number of other positive developments with respect to access for the Special Procedures. These include an increased response rate to communications, now at 68 per cent (an increase of 13 per cent over 2016); and Afghanistan’s issuance of a standing invitation to all mandate-holders, taking the number of States having done so to 118 UN Member States and one non-member Observer State.

Regarding engagement with the Treaty Bodies, he welcomed long-outstanding reports to the Committees by Bangladesh, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Tonga and Zambia.

He also applauded Qatar’s accession to the Covenants and Afghanistan’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, alongside many other ratifications.

“My Office stands ready to support them in efforts to implement these commitments to ensure respect for their people’s rights, and I urge other countries which have not ratified these and other human rights treaties to do so,” Hussein said.

Zeid, a Jordanian national who received a standing ovation from those in the council chamber following Monday’s speech, began his four-year tenure as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sept. 1, 2014. He indicated in December of last year that he would not seek a second term, telling his staff that doing so “in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice.”

His successor will be appointed by the UN secretary-general and approved by the UN General Assembly in the coming weeks.

Sri Lanka has extended more cooperation to the UNHRC under Hussein’s tenure.

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