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Commonwealth facilitates Sri Lanka human rights training

4 July 2013
Staff from the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) today completed a Commonwealth workshop on how to conduct national inquiries in compliance with international human rights standards.

John Walters, National Ombudsman of Namibia, led the three-day event in Colombo, which was attended by more than 50 staff from the HRCSL. Namibia's Office of the Ombudsman is an ‘A’ accredited institution compliant with the Paris Principles, which relate to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Justice Priyantha Perera, Chairperson of the HRCSL, said the workshop had been beneficial: “The facilitation has been very comprehensive in building our knowledge, and we are pleased that so many have been able to participate.

“I personally have benefitted by broadening my understanding of national inquiries and how they can be used as an effective tool.”

HRCSL Commissioner Jezima Ismail added that Mr Walters’ presentation will be useful in guiding the Commission in developing a model for application.

In his presentation, Javid Yusuf, Attorney-at-Law and former Commissioner of the HRCSL, highlighted greater media engagement and public awareness-raising as two central strategies in raising the profile, confidence and authority of the Commission.

The Commonwealth Secretariat's Acting Head of Human Rights, Karen McKenzie, said: “We have had positive and constructive engagement by all participants. They have demonstrated a keen commitment to strengthening their capacity and taking a stronger leadership role on human rights protection, promotion and advocacy both nationally and internationally.

“The Commonwealth Secretariat will continue to provide technical, financial, monitoring and oversight support.”

T Kanagaraj, HRCSL Regional Coordinator for Jaffna, said the workshop had helped enhance team work among HRCSL staff members. He added: "I appreciated the opportunity we had to spend time with the Regional Coordinators to share our experiences between the regions.”

The workshop took place in parallel to a visit by Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, to review arrangements for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba met with the Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs, Professor G L Peiris, Judge Priyantha Perera and members of the CHOGM 2013 Task Force.

In his last two official visits to Sri Lanka in September 2012 and February this year in preparation for CHOGM, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma committed to providing technical assistance to the HRCSL. This, he said, would strengthen the Commission’s capacity to investigate human rights abuses, which would contribute to further enhancing the independence, authority and effectiveness of the Commission in compliance with international standards.