The Sri Lankan government must deliver on the clear demand for justice from Sri Lankans nationwide by implementing the Consultation Task Force recommendations without further delay, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said last night.
The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF), a panel of 11 independent eminent persons appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in January 2016, publicly released its final report on 3 January 2017.
The report, reflecting the views of people across the country gathered through island-wide public consultations on transitional justice, highlights the lack of public confidence in the justice system’s capacity and will to deliver justice for victims of Sri Lanka’s nearly 30-year armed conflict that ended in 2009.
“The CTF report highlights a widespread lack of trust among Sri Lankans across the country, regardless of region, ethnicity, religion or language, in the ability of the criminal justice system in its current form to address serious human rights abuses stemming from the conflict,” said Nikhil Narayan, the ICJ’s South Asia senior legal adviser.
The report also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to ensure a credible transitional justice process in line with the October 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 that it co-sponsored.
“If the Sri Lankan government wants to restore public confidence in the system, it must seriously consider victims’ voices and implement the CTF recommendations on truth, justice and reparation consistent with the commitments it voluntary undertook at the Human Rights Council,” Narayan added.
Importantly, the CTF report reiterates the commitments pledged in HRC resolution 30/1, calling for active international participation in a special judicial mechanism established to deal with accountability for human rights abuses committed during the conflict by both sides, and for a bar against amnesties for international crimes.
According to the ICJ, the Sri Lankan government took an important first step towards reconciliation when it adopted the UN resolution and later established the CTF to carry out public consultations to hear a cross section of voices on transitional justice.
“Unfortunately, since then, it has been disappointing in its lack of urgency in implementing much of those stated promises and in its apparent disregard for the CTF recommendations,” Narayan said.
Several members of the government have dismissed the CTF’s recommendations, especially with regard to the inclusion of at least one international judge on every bench of the special judicial mechanism.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs recently spoke of the need for “an independent and credible domestic mechanism” without alluding to any international participation, as has been reiterated by those seeking redress as a crucial element to ensure faith in the justice mechanism.
The ICJ has in the past highlighted Sri Lanka’s culture of impunity in the justice system looking at a number of emblematic cases, and called into question the State’s capacity and political will to use the criminal justice system and other ad-hoc measures to deliver justice and accountability to victims and survivors of serious human rights abuses.
“As the situation of Sri Lanka comes before the UN Human Rights Council again this March, the Sri Lankan government is in a position to demonstrate both to the UN Member States but more importantly to its own people at home its seriousness in pursuing truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence for conflict victims who have been waiting for justice for decades. It must seize this opportunity before it is one more of many missed opportunities,” Narayan added. (ICJ)