UK affirms need for foreign judges in Lankan probe

The British Government has affirmed the need for foreign judges in Sri Lanka’s domestic accountability process to ensure its credibility.

UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth office Hugo Swire, in a letter to a group of British Parliamentarians, said that the resolution adopted recently at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) notes the importance of the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges and defence lawyers in Sri Lanka’s judicial accountability process.

Cameron-in-Jaffna-2Writing to the UK MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils and on Sri Lanka, Swire said that the resolution has a clear call for Sri Lanka to reform its domestic law to ensure that it can effectively implement its own commitments, including by allowing for the trial and punishment of those most responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and requests continued international assessment of Sri Lanka’s progress through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UNHRC.

He recalled that in January this year he addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils after his visit to Sri Lanka and had said that he had taken away from his visit a strong sense that the country had turned a corner.

He said that since then, the positive trajectory in the country has continued, culminating in the historic co-sponsorship by Sri Lanka of the UNHRC resolution.

“From a position of firm opposition to previous resolutions under the former government, Sri Lanka has engaged constructively under the new government. I strongly welcome this approach and the resolution itself, which takes forward a number of the key recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the report of its investigation on Sri Lanka,” Swire said in the letter.

hugo-swireSwire says he is proud that the United Kingdom played a leading role, both in this and in previous UNHRC sessions, to achieve this outcome. He is also pleased with the positive response the resolution has received from the large majority of civil society and political groups, both in Sri Lanka and in the UK.

The UK Minister says the ball is now firmly in Sri Lanka’s court and UK wants Sri Lanka to credibly implement the commitments it has signed up to and to take forward the recommendations in the OHCHR report.

This he says will take both time and expertise and it is incumbent on the international community to assist Sri Lanka where help is required.

“I look forward to the UK playing its full part as a new period in Sri Lanka’s history unfolds,” he added.

Swire thanked the members the All Party Parliamentary Group for their continued interest in Sri Lanka and in Tamil issues and looks forward to further constructive engagement with the Group as the UK works work with Sri Lanka to address the issues of the past, to deliver a lasting peace for all its people, and to build mutual prosperity. (Colombo Gazette)