Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission the answer - Dr. Saravanamuttu

Naseby’s assertions in House of Lords:


Former Secretary to CTFRM (Consultative Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu yesterday called for setting up a Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission (TJRNPC) to address accountability issues.

Dr. Saravanamuttu said so when he was asked to comment on Lord Naseby’s recent assertion that the GoSL did not massacre 40,000 civilians, maximum Vanni death toll 7,000-8,000, of them, one fourth LTTE personnel and the then government didn’t target civilians deliberately.

In accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1, the CTFRM in January this year made a series of important recommendations.

Dr. Saravanamuttu has sent us the following response: (a)The Task Force or CTF was mandated to ascertain the views of the Sri Lankan public in respect of the four mechanisms outlined by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 and incorporated in the Resolution 30/1 of the Council thereafter. Through its island-wide consultations and through the electronic media the CTF received in total over 7,000 submissions.  The CTF also spoke to key stakeholders including members of the tri-forces and Police and their respective commanders.

(b)Having submitted its report to the Government of Sri Lanka at the beginning of this year (2017), the CTF no longer exists and therefore a CTF opinion cannot be given on any subject pertaining to what was its mandate or any related matter.  However, The Island could of course write directly to each member of the CTF seeking his/her individual opinion on any subject. 

(c) One of the mechanisms consulted on was a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.  In response to your query re Lord Naseby’s claims, may I direct you to the CTF report, the submissions made to the CTF and its recommendations—all contained in the report- reiterating the importance of such a commission.

The following is the relevant recommendation from the report that was handed over to former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in January this year:

5. Truth, justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission (TJRNRC)

5.1 Given the lack of clarity and contrary opinions expressed in the consultations as to the mandate of the truth seeking mechanism, it is imperative that the purpose and scope of this mechanism, types of violations it should address and the key tasks to be performed by it be carefully formulated. In addition, given that the TJRNRC is part of a larger reconciliation process promised by the Government its relationship to the other mechanisms should be spelt out.

5.2 In particular, there must be clarity on whether the TJRNRC will take up individual or emblematic cases that speak to collective experiences and suffering.

5.3 The CTF is of the opinion that at a minimum, the purpose of the TJRNRC must be to establish the truth of what happened in the conflicts in Sri Lanka including discriminatory practices, and official acknowledgement of the truth once established. Official acknowledgement must include legislative measures where appropriate.

5.4 Truth in this context entails responsibility, but establishing criminal responsibility, i.e. the determination of who is a perpetrator, is best suited to a judicial mechanism or the existing judicial system. The CTF is of the opinion that the TJRNRC is not an appropriate mechanism to ascertain and assign criminal responsibility and therefore should not be empowered to grant amnesties.

5.5 The CTF recommends that the TJRNRC conduct investigations in order to find the truth and share information relating to criminal conduct with a prosecutorial body.

5.6 The TJRNRC should have a fixed term at the end of which, it should present a report to Parliament, which will be simultaneously released to the public. The length of the term of the mechanism should be determined by the volume of cases before it. The TJRNRC should publish annual reports, with clear actionable recommendations. These too should be presented to Parliament and simultaneously released to the public.

5.7 The TJRNRC should consider particular themes, issues and/or subjects for investigation and report. Due consideration must be paid to their selection. A number of requests were made in consultations for a specific focus on the last stages of the war, the Expulsion of Muslims from the North and the Malaiyaha community.

5.8 Given the history of commissions and unimplemented recommendations of previous reports, it is important that a review of these recommendations be undertaken to highlight what actions can and should be undertaken in a timely manner.

5.9 in light of the demands by the public for the Commission to be an action-oriented body as opposed to a passive listener, the TJRNRC should devise proactive ways for truth seeking as well as make specific and actionable recommendations in respect of it.

5.10 TJRNRC’s reports detailing historical incidents must inform contemporary history and school curricula. Historical confirmation, official acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for human rights violations, accountability as well as the individual and collective understanding of the consequences of these, are central to reconciliation. This must apply to gross violations against whole communities and in particular, their cultural identities. Examples of such violations are the burning of the Jaffna Public Library, the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, the expulsion of Muslims from the Northern Province, the killing of policemen in the East, massacres at the Jaffna Hospital, Aranthalawa, Anuradhapura, St. Peter’s church, Sathurukondan, Kattankudy, Palliyagodalla, Bindunuwewa and the attack on the Sri Dalada Mahoawa, which should be described in the school history books as examples of gross human rights atrocities.

5.11 Given the importance of ascertaining the truth it is imperative that the TJRNRC has a strong investigation unit made up of researchers with relevant skills including in the law, history, anthropology, forensics, criminology, sociology., psychology and sociology. Additionally, the TJRNRC should have regional investigative offices employing and involving local expertise, which will also conduct research.

5.12 Prior to the public sittings of the TJRNRC an island-wide awareness raising strategy and outreach programme must be devised. There must be full and substantive coverage of all sittings and hearings of the Commission that are not in camera, including live streaming. Social media must be mobilised in all three languages. A media or communications unit for the TJRNRC must be established and adequately funded for the purpose of communicating with stakeholders and the wider public.

5.13 The findings of the Commission must be widely disseminated and an easily accessible, simple language version of these findings must be shared with the general public and affected communities that appear before the Commission. Media institutions, artists and academia must be encouraged to engage with the findings to create a constructive public discourse, both during the process and upon the submission of the interim and final reports of the TJRNRC.

5.14 Adequate attention should be taken to ensure the security of all participants and to create safe spaces for participation.

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