PEARL Welcomes UN OISL Report; Urges Maximum International Involvement in Accountability Mechanism
(WASHINGTON, DC; October 2, 2015): People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) welcomes the report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (“OISL”), which details apparent gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite the robust investigation conducted by the High Commissioner’s office and detailed recommendations which emphasize Sri Lanka’s inability to conduct a credible domestic inquiry, Resolution A/HRC/30/L29, passed yesterday by the UN Human Rights Council, falls short of ensuring an international accountability mechanism, consistently demanded by Tamil victims over the past 6 years.
The OISL report indicates a pattern behind the violence perpetrated by state forces, which must be further investigated and appropriately prosecuted. The Sri Lankan state’s conduct during the armed conflict and continuing to date reflects that Sri Lanka lacks the political will to conduct a meaningful accountability process that prosecutes those who directly perpetrated war crimes, as well as those who held command responsibility at the time. Several high-ranking members of the government and armed forces are implicated in serious violations, some of which are ongoing. However, the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena has continued former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reprehensible policy of promoting Army officials allegedly responsible for grave war crimes, and appointing them to diplomatic positions around the world.
Resolution 30/L29 regretfully does not mandate the international oversight and supervision necessary to any credible justice mechanism. Victims’ concerns that Sri Lanka will appoint government-friendly foreign judges, cherry-picked from international bodies such as the Commonwealth – which has staunchly defended Sri Lanka throughout the past 6 years – cannot be dismissed lightly. The government’s past and present record, with credible reports of ongoing torture and sexual violence, makes the Council’s call for Sri Lanka to lead the accountability process one which could come at a tremendous risk to Tamils who participate, and may indeed keep victims from participating. As Resolution 30/L29 places the onus on Sri Lanka to deliver genuine accountability, co-sponsors are responsible for ensuring this is done in a manner satisfactory to all communities. The welfare of victims who, despite all skepticism, participate in a government-organized mechanism, hoping to see the punishment of those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide must be guaranteed.
PEARL appreciates the leadership and perseverance shown by OHCHR and the resolution co-sponsors, particularly the United States, United Kingdom, Montenegro, and Macedonia, ensuring Tamil victims have not been forgotten by the international community. Sri Lanka must demonstrate itself worthy of the trust placed in it by the Council, by immediately undertaking confidence-building measures. The Tamil homeland in the North-East must be demilitarized and all land belonging to Tamils returned. Meaningful, broad-based consultation with all stakeholders, including Tamil politicians, the Northern Provincial Council, Tamil civil society groups and organizations for the disappeared, must begin with a view towards comprehensive consultations with the victim/survivor community. PEARL urges the international community to continue to closely monitor ongoing abuses and the development of the judicial mechanism. If Sri Lanka fails to deliver on its promises regarding accountability, guarantees of non-recurrence, and a political solution, the international community must be prepared to take decisive action on behalf of long-suffering Tamil victims.
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