Home » HRW requests SL to resume Stolen Asset Recovery initiative

HRW requests SL to resume Stolen Asset Recovery initiative

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Human Rights Watch is requesting Sri Lanka to resume participation in the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative, a World Bank and United Nations partnership to support international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds, and commit to doing so as part of an agreement with the IMF.

Sri Lanka’s new president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, should ensure that his administration adopts measures to protect the basic rights of all Sri Lankans, Human Rights Watch said in a letter published recently outlining key human rights concerns.

The government should prioritize protecting the public from further hardship by putting in place appropriate social protection policies and addressing endemic corruption, while respecting fundamental rights, including freedoms of expression and association, and ending abuses by the security forces, said HRW.

Among Human Rights Watch recommendations to President Wickremesinghe are:

Ensure that people are able to freely and peacefully express their views without fear of reprisal or arrest;

Withdraw emergency regulation provisions that are are vague, overly broad, and disproportionate or that violate fundamental rights;

Announce a formal moratorium on the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) until rights-respecting counterterrorism legislation is enacted, and release prisoners arbitrarily detained under the PTA;

Establish a new social protection system that is both adequate to protect everyone’s rights from the effects of the economic crisis and designed to prevent mismanagement and corruption;

Resume Sri Lanka’s participation in the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative, a World Bank and United Nations partnership to support international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds, and commit to doing so as part of an agreement with the IMF; and

Conduct independent and impartial investigations into allegations of serious human rights abuses and high-level corruption, and appropriately prosecute those responsible.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption signed by 140 countries including Sri Lanka in 2004 outlines two main methods of recovering stolen assets.

The two methods are taking legal action in courts, or entering into agreements with other countries that hold the stolen wealth.

Although the process is time taking, many countries have adopted these mechanisms to recover stolen wealth.

The World Bank says a country needs to strengthen its laws to make asset recovery and international cooperation easier. It adds that setting up specialized agencies for asset recovery, and providing them with enough resources is also vital.

Another crucial aspect would to provide sufficient training for lawyers and judges to handle matters relating to asset recovery.

Does Sri Lanka have adequate laws to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption?

Attorney-at-Law Nadishani Perera, who is the Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka stated that discussions were underway with authorities to introduce legislation which would prevent this issue, however, such laws have not been established as concrete laws of Sri Lanka as of yet. “It is not impossible, but necessary” she added.

Governments have come to power in Sri Lanka repeatedly promising to end corruption.

Meanwhile, details of hidden wealth and assets that were exposed through the Panama and Pandora Papers continue to make the rounds even at present.

However, would it be enough to limit these matters to just slogans for election campaigns, remains a question, as the need of the hour is to formulate the relevant laws to repatriate the wealth and assets amassed illegally

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