War Crimes : Govt. requests UNHRC more time for investigations

Rights body concerned over slow pace of transitional justice


by Zacki Jabbar


While the  UN Human Rights Council has  expressed concern over the slow pace in Sri Lanka fulfilling transitional justice commitments in the post war era, the government has requested a two year grace period to complete the process it had begun.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Friday after having inaugurated the National Law Week in Colombo, that many of the assurances that had been given following the United Nations Human Rights Council ( UNHRC) resolution on accountability issues in Sri Lanka, had been fulfilled over the last two years.

Revealing that two more years had been sought to complete investigations into the alleged human rights violations, he ruled out the establishment of a Hybrid Supreme Court as demanded by the UNHRC, to probe accusations that the security forces had  killed of over  40,000 civilians in the final stages of the separatist war waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended on May 19 , 2009.    

Wickremesinghe said that the UNHRC demand was based on the premise that the Sri Lankan judiciary was not independent, but under the current government  judical independence had been  re-established, thereby negating the need for  a separate court that included foreign judges.

The creation of a Hybrid Court would require a two-thirds majority in parliament and possibly a referendum, which were hurdles unlikely to be cleared considering the general thinking in the country, he noted.

The Prime Ministers comments coincided with that of UNHRC  Chief  Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, who reiterated the need to adopt legislation to establish a Hybrid Court while recognizing that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration had advanced on constitutional reforms and  showcased positive developments on the broader human rights agenda.

The worryingly slow pace of transitional justice and the lack of a comprehensive strategy to address accountability for past crimes risk derailing the momentum towards lasting peace, reconciliation and stability, he noted in his report.

It makes a number of concrete recommendations, including the need to embrace the proposals of the Consultation Task Force, to formulate a communications campaign to inform the public about details of the reconciliation agenda, to invite the UN Human Rights Office to establish a presence in Sri Lanka, to give the highest priority to the restitution of all private land that has been occupied by the military and to adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court.

The report also highlights a number of serious human rights violations that are reportedly continuing to occur, including the harassment or surveillance of human rights defenders and victims of violations, police abuse and torture throughout the country, as a means of interrogation and investigation and allegations of sexual violence against the military.

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