Sri Lanka could lose its preferential trading rights with the European Union, as the bloc feels that it is not doing enough to improve its human rights record. The European Commission now says it will ask the 27 EU member states if it should suspend trade privileges.
A year-long inquiry by the Brussels-based EU commission has revealed "significant shortcomings" in Sri Lanka's human rights efforts. Lutz Gullner, trade spokesman for the EU, accused Sri Lanka of "breaching commitments" made under a deal giving its exporters easier access to the European market.
Sri Lanka, which ended a 25-year internal conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels in May, is one of 16 countries benefiting from an EU deal to enhance the so-called generalised system of preferences terms offered to developing countries, provided they meet sustainable development and good governance conditions.
These include human rights obligations and working practices, and Brussels says Colombo has still to ratify and apply them fully. Sri Lanka says the commission's concerns revolve around three out of 27 internationally-recognised conventions in these areas.
The EU inquiry was launched during Sri Lanka's final offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the north of the country. It found evidence of torture, police violence and breaches of child labour laws.
The report outlines how it expects Sri Lanka to take "vigorous, rapid and verifiable" action to tackle discrepancies in its current human rights record.