The government took some steps in 2017 to reduce restrictions on speech and assembly, but there was little progress on transitional justice initiatives agreed to at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, says the report.
In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, HRW reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said victims of abuses who struggled for years seeking justice finally had a moment of hope two years ago when Sri Lanka pledged to the UN to take action.
“Since then, victims have received many words but little action. The government needs to put a timetable in place for meeting its pledges to the world and to the Sri Lankan people,” she said.
While the government conducted national consultations on issues around the resolution, the HRW said the government has since failed to act on the recommendations.
“In July 2017, the government announced that it would operationalize an Office on Missing Persons. But there was no meaningful progress on the other three justice mechanisms, most notably a judicial mechanism to prosecute those responsible on all sides for grave crimes committed during the country’s civil war,” it said.
It said the government released many of those long detained under the PTA but offered no reparations or apologies to those arbitrarily held.
“The government has yet to take meaningful steps to reform laws criminalizing same-sex relations. Muslim women campaigned for amendments to discriminatory marriage laws,” it said.
UN member countries should urge the Sri Lankan Government to deliver on its commitments when Sri Lanka appear before the Human Rights Council in March 2018, for an interim report by the high commissioner for human rights.
One of the four pillars of the 2015 resolution was to create an Office of Missing Persons (OMP). Although the government enacted a law in August 2016, efforts operationalize it remained stalled until September 2017, HRW said.
The report said the government's response to the report of the Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms prepared by civil society leaders, appointed by the government, after conducting nationwide consultations in 2016 has also been disappointing.
Although some progress on policies and plans designed to protect women against trafficking, and sexual and other violence were made, the government is yet to fully implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the report said.