UK insists on credible war crimes probe

Government playing with words


by Zacki Jabbar


While the government says that there are variations to the manner in which allegations of war crimes against the security forces and the LTTE could be investigated, the United Kingdom yesterday emphasized the importance of independent and impartial institutions to ensure credibility of the process.

Asked as to what the United Kingdoms’s (UK) position was in the light of recent statements by leading figures in the Sri Lankan government ruling out the establishment of a Hybrid Court and how it would set about implementing the October 2015 United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) Resolution 30/1, titled "Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka", a spokesperson for the British High Commission in Colombo, told the "Sunday Island" that the UK remained committed to seeing Resolution 30/1 implemented in full through the establishment of a credible judicial mechanism.

"The UNHRC Resolution welcomed the proposal of the Government of Sri Lanka to establish a judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. It affirmed the importance of independent and impartial institutions to the credibility of the mechanism and in this regard highlighted the importance of the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators", she said.

Asked if the U.K was satisfied with implementation of  Resolution 30/1, which the U.S , U.K ,Yugoslav , Macedonia and Montenegro sponsored, along with co-sponsors Sri Lanka and 25 other countries, the spokesperson observed that welcome improvements had been made to the human rights situation since January 2015 but  much remained to be done.

"The UK will continue to support and encourage the Sri Lankan government to fully deliver the commitments it made," she said.

She recalled that in November 2015, the UK had committed £6.6 million over three years to support the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s ambitious reform agenda. That included work on police reform and training, defence engagement, supporting the UN’s work on reconciliation and peace building, inter-religious dialogue and mediation, capacity building on anti-bribery and the fight against corruption and de-mining in the northern province.

Emphasizing the need for equitable and just governance for all Lankans, the spokesperson noted that the UK and wider international community  were supporting the government’s efforts to implement its commitments on reconciliation, accountability, human rights and a political settlement to the national question.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in Colombo on Thursday that the UNHRC’s call for Commonwealth or other foreign judges to be included in a Hybrid Court was a recommendation and should not interpreted to mean insistence.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein himself had admitted that there could be variations on how Resolution 30/1 would be implemented, he said. The establishment of an Hybrid Court, Samaraweera observed would involve constitutional changes which will not be feasible in the current context.

He said that the government had requested the UNHRC for  two more years to implement its recommendations.

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