UN denounces Sri Lanka’s slow pace in addressing war crimes


Country-Flags-United-NAtions-UN-2The UN denounced Sri Lanka’s “slow pace” in addressing war crimes and warned that it may “derail” the momentum towards lasting peace and reconciliation with the minority Tamil community.

The UN human rights office also asked the country to appoint international judges to investigate allegations of rights violations.

“The slow pace of transitional justice in Sri Lanka and the lack of a comprehensive strategy to address accountability for past crimes risk derailing the momentum towards lasting peace, reconciliation and stability,” it said.

The remarks came at the launch of a report in Geneva on Sri Lanka’s progress in addressing crimes committed during the country’s three-decade-long civil war that ended in 2009.

The report comes a day after Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he had the guts to dismiss the UN demand seeking foreign judges to probe the alleged war crimes.

But the rights body did not drop its demand for a hybrid mechanism with foreign judges to probe the allegations.

“Adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court, which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, and provide it with the resources necessary to enable it to try those responsible promptly and effectively”.

At the same time, the report hailed the government for advancing on constitutional reforms and showcasing some positive developments on the broader human rights agenda.

“The fulfilment of transitional justice commitments has, however, been worryingly slow, and the structures set up and measures taken during the period under review were inadequate to ensure real progress,” the report said.

“Party politics, including the balancing of power between the different constituencies of the coalition in the run-up to constitutional reforms, have contributed to a reluctance to address difficult issues regarding accountability or to clearly articulate a unified position by all parts of the government.

“The deployment of foreign judges on the accountability mechanism has presented the government with one such difficult issue.

“Unclear and often contradictory messages have been delivered on transitional justice mechanisms. Public messaging around transitional justice and reconciliation has been generally confusing and at times contradictory,” the report said.

High UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will formally present the report to the Human Rights Council on March 22 in Geneva.

Last month, Sri Lanka said it needed more time to probe the alleged war crimes committed during the civil war and insisted that the proposed mechanism to deliver justice to the victims would be homegrown and not a copy of the South African model.

According to the UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the security forces during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime that brought the civil war to an end by defeating the LTTE.