COLOMBO: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, has recommended that the Sri Lankan Commission to Investigate Cases of Forced Disappearances should he disbanded because its credibility has been seriously questioned by the families of the victims and other observers.
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In his report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Wednesday, Zeid said that task assigned to the missing persons’ commission (headed by former Justice Maxwell Paranagama) should be transferred to a “credible and independent institution established in consultation with the families of the disappeared.”
The Paranagama commission, which was assisted by foreign experts, including Sir Desmond de Silva of the UK, was appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It submitted its final report to President Maithripala Sirisena on August 15 this year.
In his report to the UNHRC, Prince Zied reiterated his demand for an “ad hoc hybrid special court” to investigate and try war crimes with the involvement of foreign judges and other foreign legal personnel.
“In a highly polarized environment such a hybrid mechanism is essential to give all Sri Lankans, especially victims, confidence of its independence and impartiality,” he said.
In his statement, the Lankan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, said that his government has taken note of the report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka and that it “will ensure that its content as well as recommendations receive due attention of the relevant authorities including the new mechanisms that are envisaged to be set up.”
A number of UNHRC members and NGOs made statements on Zeid’s report. Most referred to the horrendous crimes committed by both the Lankan State and the LTTE. While noting that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime has taken significant strides towards reconciliation and addressing issues of accountability, much work needs to be done to ensure lasting peace, they said. All of them urged the Lankan government to keep its promise to seek the assistance of the international community and the UN.
Russia underlined the need for allowing Lanka to choose the kind of help it wants from the international community, and to decide where it wants help and to what extent.
Japan said that it will station a special peace and reconciliation envoy in Sri Lanka and that he will be taking position there in October. Estonia called upon Lanka to sign the Rome Statute and come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Pakistan said that Lanka should be appreciated for defeating terrorism and appealed to the Western world not to be too critical of it as the West had also committed atrocities. If the UNHRC goes for a country-specific resolution it should be acceptable to that country as in the current case, Pakistan said. Sri Lanka is a co-sponsor of a resolution on itself. The Fijian delegated said that Lanka should be given time and space to bring about reconciliation as ethnic conflicts are not easy to resolve.
Anbumani Ramadoss of Pasumai Thayagam charged that the government of India had rendered grave injustice to the Tamils by not fighting for an international investigation as per the demand of the Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution of September 16. “The silence of the Indian government is disappointing,” he said.
The International Committee of Jurists said that Lanka should subject itself to the ICC by signing the Rome Statute.
Several Tamil politicians from Sri Lanka including Ananthy Sasitharan, Suresh Premachandran and M.K.Sivajilingam called for a UN-led international judicial mechanism to replace the international-aided “domestic mechanism” envisaged by the US-Lanka collaborative resolution to be placed before the UNHRC on Thursday.