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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

At both the informal consultations on implementation of the Human Rights Action Plan held at the Reconciliation Office, and the official meetings conducted at the Ministry of Plantation Industries by the Task Force of the Inter-Ministerial Committee, three factors have been stressed by many participants. The first is better training, not only for the police but also for public servants in general. The Action Plan asserts the need for this in many places, talking not only about internal programmes but also about outside training. The institution it mentions most prominently in this regard is the Human Rights Commission, but it was also noted that agencies such as the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration, and universities that conduct courses in Public Policy and Management should incorporate Human Rights awareness in their programmes.

… awareness of duties that ensured that human rights were protected.

An important distinction was made however in the course of discussion, that training of officials should be not so much in awareness of human rights as in awareness of duties that ensured that human rights were protected. Whilst there is also need, and the Action Plan notes this, to educate the public about their Rights, with regard to those whose activities impact through a power relationship on others, the vital point is that they should function with sensitivity about the rights of those they affect. Thus, a course on Human Rights for police personnel should lead not to more complaints by them that their rights have been violated with regard to transfers etc, it should lead to fewer instances of violations of the rights of the public. In that regard we hope that the training programmes enjoined by the Action Plan will include a listing of the desired outcomes, and involve monitoring programmes to check on how effective the training is.

In order to do this we need also greater attention to the second factor that came up in our discussions, namely the need for operational manuals that make clear the way in which officials should function. In this regard I was delighted that the manual we had suggested years ago, in the Committee set up with regard to the Police and Human Rights, has finally been published.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2012
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