Foreign judges no strangers to Sri Lanka

Peace and reconciliation will always remain a distant dream in Sri Lanka.

By Manek shaw

‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, the title given to the resolution tabled at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by the United States of America on Thursday (24) itself clearly emphasized the need of Sri Lanka traversing in the right path of strengthening its unity, integrity and sovereignty.

Unlike the previous three resolutions brought out successfully by the US against Sri Lanka during the Rajapaksa regime, the latest resolution of the US has ‘called for a credible justice process’ supporting the call made by the OHCHR Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to set up a Hybrid Special Court to investigate into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations which were alleged to have been committed during the final phase of the civil strife between the years of 2002 and 2009 in the Island.

The US resolution tabled on Wednesday remains supportive of the OHCHR Chief’s last week’s report on Sri Lanka which had recommended the setting up of a Hybrid Special Court. The US resolution has even made suggestions to include Commonwealth and other foreign Judges, defence lawyers, authorized prosecutors and investigators to join hands with the Sri Lankan Judicial mechanism in forming the proposed Hybrid Special Court.

Civil strife
In the past when the civil strife was taking its toll, there had been several reports released and resolutions brought out condemning the adverse effects of the civil strife by the international community.

However, it is for the first time that with the OHCHR Chief releasing his report on Sri Lanka, the US has tabled its resolution on a broader perspective titling it as ‘promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights’ in the Island Nation.

Following the suggestion made by the OHCHR Chief to establish a Hybrid Special Court to investigate into alleged war crimes and human rights violations, protests and condemnations had surfaced describing the suggestion as meddling with the sovereignty of the Island. It is important to remember, that calling for an International Commissions to investigate into complicated major incidents in the Island is nothing new.

On the insistence of the family members of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and nine other military officials who were killed in a land mine attack on August 1992 in Kayts, late President D.B.Wijetunge appointed a Special International Commission to investigate into the incident.

Commonwealth Judges
The Special International Commission appointed by the late President comprised the Judges from the Commonwealth countries and they were Justices Necabeohe Evans Amissah from Ghana, Sir Kenneth James Keith from New Zealand and Muhammad Lawal Uwais from Nigeria.

The three member International Judges commenced their task on 26 May 1993 and continued till 8 June 1993 in Colombo. Evidences from twenty four persons had been recorded in Colombo by the Commission. Thereafter, the three foreign Judges had even travelled to London and stayed there for two days (15 and 16 June) to record the evidence of a British Forensic expert J.R. Wyatt on his findings on the landmine explosion which killed Gen. Kobbekaduwa and other officers. The International Commission after completing its sittings handed over its final report establishing that Gen. Kobbekaduwa and the other military officials who accompanied him were killed due to a land mine explosion in Kayts.

So based on the OHCHR Chief’s suggestion on appointing a Hybrid Special Court to investigate into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations, the US resolution which was tabled on Thursday (24) had even suggested, to include Commonwealth and other foreign Judges to work with the Lankan Judicial mechanism.

The OHCHR report which was released last week and the US resolution tabled on Thursday made the suggestions to set up a Hybrid Special Court to work jointly with the Lankan legal fraternity to investigate into the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians between the years of 2002 and 2009.

The OHCHR report was even fair enough to point the finger at the atrocities committed by the LTTE and the report has mentioned former LTTE strongman Vinayagamoorthy Muralithran alias Karuna’s involvements in the human rights violations of the outfit.

US resolution
So, as the OHCHR’s last week report and the US resolution tabled at the UNHRC remain justifiable in every aspect and now it is the Lankan Government’s turn to take a decision on responding to those two prime documents.

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran being a legal luminary and adopting a firm stance on calling for an International probe into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations in the North and the East, thousands of war victims have rallied around him seeking a credible justice process with the involvement of the international community.

With US Government expressing its confidence on the new regime formed after January this year in its latest resolution, the international community believes that the alleged war crime issues should not be a stumbling block towards Sri Lanka strengthening its peace and reconciliation process.
On the other hand, the contents of the OHCHR report and the US resolution also clearly indicate, unless the suggestions and the guidelines mentioned in those two documentations are adhered to, peace and reconciliation will always remain a distant dream in Sri Lanka.