Colombo Telegraph

Sri Lanka Continues To Deprive Itself Of The Benefits Of Transitional Justice

By Pablo de Greiff

Pablo de Greiff

Transitional justice processes are nothing like ‘witch hunts,’ they do not involve massive purges, and do not trade on charges of collective responsibility or guilt by association. In this respect, I note with concern the use of rhetoric such as ‘war heroes will never be brought to trial.’ This seems to me to misrepresent the target of transitional justice accountability measures by suggesting that it is a generally anti-security agenda, and also by forgetting that no one who has committed violations of human rights law or of the laws of war deserves to be called a hero. Sifting precisely between the legitimate and lawful use of force and the contrary, under conditions in which all relevant due process guarantees are meticulously adhered to, and in which not only the rights of victims but also the rights of suspects and the accused are protected, is one of the points of transitional justice accountability.

I will add that the promise mentioned above regarding ‘war heroes’ is a legally unenforceable political statement, and therefore cannot offer any real security. In order to make it effective it would ultimately require a violation of the principle of the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, amongst others. Moreover, needless to say, it offers absolutely no warranty internationally. As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the Armed Forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here or abroad. In my opinion, this is an additional reason for the country, with the full support of the Armed Forces –who stand a lot to gain from this process– to establish a robust and credible comprehensive transitional justice policy.

Observations by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr. Pablo de Greiff, on the conclusion of his recent visit to Sri Lanka:

To read the full statement by Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, at the conclusion of his official visit click here

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