The British Government must be willing to hold the Sri Lankan authorities to account if they reject the findings and recommendations of the forthcoming United Nations report into alleged war crimes and human rights violations on the island, according to Siobhain McDonagh MP.
Speaking during a debate on Sri Lanka in the UK Parliament on Wednesday 28th January, the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and the Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils said no measures should be taken off the table by the British Government, including possible sanctions and travel bans, if President Maithripala Sirisena’s Government fails to comply with the inquiry.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is due to publish its war crimes report by the time of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, in March 2015. Their findings, which will focus primarily on the final years of the country’s armed conflict and its immediate aftermath -2002 to 2011, will make an assessment of possible suspects complicit in the alleged perpetration of war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The report’s conclusions may pave the way for future criminal investigations.
McDonagh said that international pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka was vital to ensure truth, accountability and justice, given the culture of impunity on the island. Whilst welcoming the recent Presidential election victory of Mr Sirisena and the removal of the previous incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa, she noted that Sirisena’s new administration must be willing to reach out to minority communities, particularly Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims, who had been so badly treated by Rajapaksa’s regime. Given the fact that the electoral support of these communities was vital to him securing the Presidency, Ms McDonagh said Maithripala Sirisena was duty bound to address their longstanding grievances – on war crimes allegations, human rights violations, political marginalisation and religious intolerance amongst other important issues.
Siobhain McDonagh, Labour’s MP for Mitcham and Morden, said: “The demise of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government will, I hope, provide fresh impetus to address the key, unresolved issues arising from the country’s armed conflict and its aftermath.
“Sri Lanka can only be set on the path to a sustainable peace if the war crimes allegations are addressed, the culture of impunity ended, a comprehensive political settlement to the Tamil national question is negotiated and the rights and freedoms of all Sri Lanka’s citizens are afforded equal respect and protection.
“However, whilst President Sirisena’s Government has some bold plans for reform, I am deeply concerned at his unwillingness to recognise the mandate of the OHCHR investigation. The tens of thousands of Tamils who were slaughtered in the final stages of the armed conflict alone deserve justice. The British Government must uphold the values and precepts of international humanitarian and human rights law, by giving unwavering support to the OHCHR. They must ensure the Government of Sri Lanka is held to account if President Sirisena’s Government continues to snub the UN process and rejects any possible future criminal investigations.”