Feds impose immigration, dealings bans on Sri Lankan officials for ‘gross human rights violations’

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (January 10, 2023, 2:47 PM EST) -- Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly has announced sanctions under the Special Economic Measures (Sri Lanka) Act targeting four Sri Lankan state officials that Ottawa says are responsible for “gross and systematic violations of human rights” during armed conflict in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009.

The regulations impose on Sri Lankan ex-presidents Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Staff Sgt. Sunil Ratnayake and Lt. Cmdr. Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi a dealings prohibition, which would effectively freeze any assets they may hold in Canada and also render them inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The sanctions came into force Jan. 6.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly

“Over the past four decades, the people of Sri Lanka have suffered a great deal due to the armed conflict, economic and political instability, and gross violations of human rights,” Joly said in a statement from Global Affairs Canada Jan. 10.

“Canada is steadfast in its support to attain peace, reconciliation, justice and accountability on the island,” Joly said. “Canada has taken decisive action today to end international impunity against violators of international law. Canada stands ready to support Sri Lanka’s path to peace, inclusion and prosperity through the advancement of accountability, reconciliation and human rights, including international assistance to address the domestic crisis.”

Global Affairs Canada said that, despite continued calls from Canada and the international community “to address accountability,” the government of Sri Lanka “has taken limited meaningful and concrete action to uphold its human rights obligations. This jeopardizes progress on justice for affected populations, and prospects for peace and reconciliation.”

The federal government said victims and survivors of gross human rights violations deserve justice. “These sanctions send a clear message that Canada will not accept continued impunity for those that have committed gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka.”

Ottawa said Canada will continue to collaborate alongside international partners, including through multilateral bodies, to advocate for human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka, “which is an important step toward securing a safe, peaceful and inclusive future for the country”

As part of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2018, Canada will “continue to advocate meaningful progress on reconciliation and accountability” in Sri Lanka and support efforts towards attaining accountability and peace on the island, the Global Affairs Canada press release says.

“Canada supports efforts towards urgent political and economic reforms to alleviate the hardships faced by the people in Sri Lanka,” the federal government said. “We strongly encourage the Sri Lankan government to promote democracy, human rights and maintain the rule of law as it works to address this crisis.”

The government announced the same day a $3-million response to appeals by the United Nations and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to address Sri Lankans’ immediate needs, including their food security and livelihoods, shelter and non-food items, as well as nutritional assistance and primary health-care services for vulnerable children and women.

Canadian assistance in Sri Lanka is helping to procure emergency medical supplies and medicines and to provide nutritious school meals for vulnerable primary school children.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Dailyplease contact Cristin Schmitz at Cristin.schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or call 613-820-2794.