The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), largest Tamil diaspora body reiterated its call for the inclusion of international judges in Sri Lanka’s transitional justice processes in the wake of a UN report that was critical of country’s judicial system.
A report prepared by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto, on her mission to Sri Lanka from April 29 to May 7 last year, tabled by the current Rapporteur, Diego García-Sayán at the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council, was highly critical of the Sri Lankan justice system.
“GTF calls upon the International Community and the Government of Sri Lanka to take serious note of this important report and to be fully focussed on the need to establish impartial, credible and effective transitional justice processes with the participation of international judges to address the past comprehensively, with the aim to achieving long-lasting peace, reconciliation and prosperity for all the peoples of Sri Lanka,” a statement issued by GTF said.
UN Special Rapporteur García-Sayán noted that although the armed conflict was concluded in 2009, very deep wounds could still be seen in the judicial system. Quoting the report, he said there was a lack of equal representation of minority groups in the prosecution services and police force. “Problems related to language are very serious and have a very serious effect on justice and on the likelihood of obtaining a fair process if you belong to the Tamil community,” he said.
On the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the report points out ‘The Act, adopted in 1979, imposes severe restrictions on courts’ jurisdiction and authority to prevent abusive detention and torture and seriously undermines the fundamental right of defendants to a fair trial. The continuation of a normative framework that contributes to violations of fundamental human rights cannot be justified.’
Referring to Persisting Impunity, the report stated that the failure to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations, serious violations of humanitarian law and international crimes in Sri Lanka has long been documented. Furthermore, while the conflict lasted, there was virtual impunity for any abuse committed by the police or the security forces. Impunity is so widespread that it has become a normal occurrence, thereby contributing to shattering the public’s confidence in its judiciary.’