COLOMBO: At the on-going session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will ask the Sri Lankan government to implement the UNHRC resolution which it co-sponsored along with the United States in September-October 2015.
“The Sri Lankan government co-sponsored a resolution at the UNHRC which required it to take a number of measures. We will demand the implementation of that resolution,” said R.Sampanthan, TNA chief and Leader of the Opposition in the Lankan parliament.
The resolution committed Lanka to establishing a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable.
Judicial Mechanism With Foreign Judges
It said that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for their integrity and impartiality. In this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators, was stressed.
The resolution encouraged the Lanka government to reform its domestic law to ensure that it can implement effectively its own commitments; the recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission; as well as the recommendations of the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including by allowing for, in a manner consistent with its international obligations, the trial and punishment of those most responsible for the full range of crimes under the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations relevant to violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.
The resolution encouraged the Lanka government to introduce effective security sector reforms as part of its transitional justice process, which will help to enhance the reputation and professionalism of the military and include ensuring that no scope exists for retention in or recruitment into the security forces of anyone credibly implicated through a fair administrative process in serious crimes involving human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law, including members of the security and intelligence units.
Replacement of Prevention of Terrorism Act
The resolution committed Lanka to initiating a high-level review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and its regulations and the Public Security Ordinance Act with a view to their repeal and the formulation of a new national security framework fully compliant with international law.
Progress So Far
So far, no steps have been taken by the Lankan government to set up a Judicial Mechanism to investigate and try war crimes cases. In fact, President Maithripala Sirisena has said in an interview that no war crimes had been committed by the Lankan armed forces.
President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have both said more than once, that there will be no foreign judge in the Judicial Mechanism.
Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi has said that work on a law to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act is only in a preliminary stage. Work on a Witness Protection Act is also tardy.
Areas in which the Lankan government has made manifest progress is in the return of lands to civilians. A fourth of the land area held by the armed forces has been returned. Democracy and press freedom have been restored and enforced disappearances are a thing of the past.