Create Counterpart Mechanism To Strengthen Prospect Of Reconciliation
The international community has resolved to inquire into the violations of the Rule of Law with regard to the last phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war and thereafter. The UN Human Rights Council has passed three resolutions over the opposition of the Sri Lankan government focusing on the issue of accountability for human rights, which is an obligation that is binding on all States. This has been decried by the Sri Lankan government as motivated by ill will and prejudice and as inimical to national sovereignty. Sri Lanka however is not the only country subject to investigation for their record of human rights. Other countries that are currently under scrutiny are Turkey, Myanmar, Nigeria, Bahrain and South Sudan.
The third and most recent resolution that was passed in March 2014 called on the UN Human Rights Commissioner to establish an international investigatory mechanism. She has now requested the Sri Lankan government for its cooperation in taking this investigation forward. It is unlikely that Sri Lanka can successfully invoke ‘national sovereignty’ as a valid reason to reject the UN Resolution. All States who are members of the UN are required to follow the Rule of Law and uphold human rights. It is obligatory on the UN and its agencies to investigate allegations of violations of human rights and war crimes for otherwise the UN Charter will be a mere piece of paper to be left to individual States to follow or not.
The President has referred the matter to Parliament where a broad-based discussion on the issue can take place. The government’s concern is that an international investigation will be motivated by prejudice and ill will towards the country and its government. The only way to prevent a one-sided investigation is not to permit an ex parte inquiry where the Government deprives itself of the right to present its own defense and the right to cross-examine witnesses and scrutinize documents which are to be used as evidence. In any case the allegations in the last resort are against individuals who will be held accountable. The decision to defend themselves or not can be left to the individual judgment of those against whom there are allegations.
Many in Sri Lanka hold the position that it is better not to go into matters of the past and accountability in the interests of Reconciliation. The National Peace Council notes that the present stage is an investigation into the truth or falsehood of the allegations and not an exercise in accountability which would only come at a later stage. In dealing with any offences are disclosed during the investigation, we believe that the best course of action is not to impose punishments but to grant pardon or amnesty to those who confess. Such action will have to follow upon a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as was held in South Africa. We urge that a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established simultaneously along with the UN Investigation so that their findings reinforce the prospect of reconciliation.