The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called on the Sri Lankan government investigate the use of cluster munitions by the military during the final stages of the war against the LTTE, which also resulted in civilian deaths.
“In light of recent reports on new evidence that has emerged on the use of cluster munitions towards the end of the conflict, following similar allegations in the OHCHR investigation report, the High Commissioner calls for an independent and impartial investigation to be carried out,” Zeid said in his annual report, which was submitted at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council on June 28, 2016.
While emphasizing upon the need for the Sri Lankan Government to quickly build public and international confidence in its determination to pursue accountability, and to meet its obligations under international human rights law, Zeid also underscored the need to bring in international judges, prosecutors, investigators and lawyers into the judicial mechanism to probe war crimes.
“The High Commissioner remains convinced that international participation in the accountability mechanisms would be a necessary guarantee for the independence and impartiality of the process in the eyes of victims, as Sri Lanka’s judicial institutions currently lack the credibility needed to gain their trust,” he said in the report.
Zeid also expressed his discontent over the slow progress made in several crucial murder investigations, even thought they were initially fast tracked during the first few months the Government was in office.
“During its first months in office, there were a number of high profile breakthroughs and arrests made in a number of prominent cases, for instance the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, the killings of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and Tamil MPs Joseph Pararajasingham and Nadarajah Raviraj, and the murder of rugby player Wasim Thajudeen, but progress has since slowed, he said.
Zeid said that the early momentum established in investigating emblematic cases must be sustained, as early successful prosecutions would mark a turning point from the impunity of the past. “Continuing allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture and sexual violence, as well as more general military surveillance and harassment, must be swiftly addressed, and the structures and institutional culture that promoted those practices be dismantled, to show there will be no tolerance for practices of the past,” he said in his report.
The High Commissioner also strongly urged the Government to review and amend the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act of 2015 in order to incorporate better safeguards for the independence and effectiveness of the victim and witness protection program in line with international standards.