GTF calls for victim-centric approach in Sri Lanka

GTF Calls For Victim-Centric Actions In Coordination With UNHRC

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has called for a victim-centric approach in Sri Lanka to address allegations related to the war.

In a statement today, the GTF said that comments made by the Sri Lankan delegates at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 40th session and again within a week after returning from Geneva are highly disappointing.

 The GTF finds it disconcerting, considering Sri Lanka has just taken the positive step of co-sponsoring the HRC Resolution 40/1.

“The statements dealing exclusively with macho nationalism and inviolable sovereignty; constitutional scapegoats; and even misrepresentation about private meetings with high-ranking OHCHR officials were clearly aimed at pacifying the Sinhala hard-line elements,” GTF said.

GTF notes the merits of the UNHRC processes, the disappointments expressed by most countries regarding the pace of progress, and the failure to date to make real impact on individual victims and their families did not deserve any mention.

“The core of the argument presented by Foreign Minister Marapana at the Human Rights Council centred on the Supreme Court resolving the constitutional crisis late last year and how that is giving credence to the independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary. The peaceful resolution of that crisis is welcome, and it indicates improvement from previous years in the objectivity of the Supreme Court when it concerns constitutional matters. However, the Sri Lankan judiciary and other key institutions administering justice on serious crimes committed during the war, perhaps with the connivance of some who were associated with the government, is altogether a different proposition,” GTF said.

Speaking in the Sri Lankan Parliament after the passing of the Resolution 40/1, the Foreign Minister again ruled out the possibility for foreign judges, saying “Without legislation, we cannot have foreign judges sitting in our judicial system deciding the capability of our citizens. Even if we bring in such legislation, the Supreme Court will strike it down.”

GTF says while the Foreign Minister’s constitutional interpretation has been questioned by many, the Minister was oblivious to the fact that Sri Lanka co-sponsored the UNHRC resolutions three times, and the resolutions unambiguously specified the importance of including “Commonwealth and other foreign judges” in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, not as mere observers or advisers, but in full judicial capacity.

“It is an undisputable fact that ten years after the end of the war, not a single family affected by enforced disappearance has been able to ascertain the truth, or received justice or reparation, and no one has been punished for the war crimes committed. Even in the emblematic cases such as – the killings of 5 students in Trincomalee; the massacre of 17 aid workers in Muttur (both in 2006); and the murder of the high-profile journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge (2009) – there has been no judicial outcome more than a decade after,” GTF said.

GTF says if the past is of any indication, there is not a single case or outcome to support the independence and impartiality of the judiciary when serious cases of human rights violations are heard – particularly when the perpetrators are security forces and those linked to the establishment, and the victims are Tamils.

The diaspora group says credible international participation is vital in any worthy judicial process. GTF says insisting continuously on a purely domestic court and judges will only lead to increased calls for an international judicial mechanism to address criminal accountability. (Colombo Gazette)