Although a definitive response was not expressed concerning the OHCHR recommended ‘hybrid special court’ to deal with accountability issues, Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera today confirmed an international role in the domestic inquiry mechanism and added the government plans to conclude the proposed processes within 18 months.
Addressing the media at a special briefing at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Minister Samaraweera said he planned to have the consultation processes on the domestic inquiry mechanism underway by the second week of October, upon their return from partaking in the UN General Assembly. The consultations are scheduled to conclude by the end of January in order to facilitate the establishment of the proposed mechanisms.
The Minister added the four-tiered accountability and reconciliation mechanisms proposed to be set up by Statute during his speech at the opening day of the 30th UNHRC session along the lines of truth seeking, right to justice, right to reparations and non-recurrence, are planned to conclude within 18 months.
He said all stakeholders would be involved in the consultative rounds including victims, religious leaders, civil society representatives, etc. to make a decision on the constitution and particulars of the proposed domestic inquiry mechanism and on the capacity of international role in the process.
“We would definitely have to seek international assistance on certain areas where necessary expertise might be lacking locally, such as forensic analysis. We hope to determine such necessities and the level of involvement through the stakeholder consultations,” he added.
The Minister said he believed the OISL (OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka) report was a ‘well-balanced, sober report written with the best of intentions’.
He added however that its contents were a disappointment for those who expected a blood-curdling account and for those who claimed it would be a witch-hunt against the Sri Lanka Army.
“As you can see, the paranoia has been proven wrong. No individual culpability has been declared and the area of prosecution has been referred to a domestic mechanism,” he said while adding it is a golden opportunity to restore and protect the credibility of the Sri Lanka Army and distance itself from the negative impression created due to acts of a few who followed orders from the top during the final phases of the conflict.
He assured those found guilty through the domestic inquiry would be prosecuted irrelevant of their status. The Minister went on to state that it would not be the first instance of Sri Lanka indicting military personnel for crimes as he highlighted examples such as cases of Premawathie Manamperi and Krishanthi Coomaraswamy.
“I believe all member states of the UNHRC including those that sponsored the resolution against Sri Lanka such as the US and the UK have supported the proposed actions and it is a massive victory for us as a country,” Minister Samaraweera said.
Meanwhile, speaking on one of the 23 recommendations made in the OISL report – on the need for a fully-fledged OHCHR presence in Sri Lanka to monitor the human rights situation, the Minister said he had responded to the UNHCR on the matter during which he insisted that they do not perceive the need for a separate OHCHR office to be established in the country but that they had no objection to the existing UN office be further strengthened.(Lakna Paranamanna)
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