Sri Lanka open to foreign judges on war crimes panel

news
26 September 2015

A draft resolution submitted by four countries, including the US and the UK, in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has mooted the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges in ''a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism'' to probe allegations of war crimes during the suppression of the Tamil insurgency in that country.

Sri Lanka has co-sponsored the resolution. The proposed mechanism includes the Special Counsel's office, according to the draft, which has been hosted on the extranet of the UNHRC.

The text of an old draft had called upon the Sri Lankan government ''to involve international investigators, prosecutors and judges in Sri Lanka's justice processes.

Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council and a law alumnus of the Harvard University, says the earlier version on the nature of judicial mechanism was ambiguous whereas the revised text is more specific and it reiterates the government's position, which is for a domestic mechanism.

Dr Perera says the role of the foreign judges is likely to be more in the form of advisory as otherwise there will have to be amendments to the existing laws.

Another significant feature of the resolution is that ''the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with honour and professionalism'' would be safeguarded even as a ''credible accountability process'' will be in place for ''those most responsible for violations and abuses''.

The document also talks of ''the need for a process of accountability and reconciliation for violations and abuses committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam''.

Reacting to the tabling of the resolution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that ''following extensive negotiations, the government has managed to include several clauses in the document recognising the progress made on reconciliation since January 2015''.

He added that the government had agreed to implement a political solution to the island's ethnic problem and bring the necessary constitutional measures.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in a statement, described the suggestion of involving the foreign and Commonwealth jurists as a ''significant victory for justice''.

It added. ''The draft provides a constructive starting point for what will inevitably be a long road to reconciliation.''





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