With the end of the war in 2009, the need to address the widespread death, destruction, and displacement was overwhelming. Allegations against all sides of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity demands an independent investigation and the prosecution within a credible court of law of those responsible for international crimes committed during the final stages of the war and during its aftermath. The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has consistently called for such independent investigations and other accountability measures to address truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence of violence in Sri Lanka. This appeal continues six years after the end of the war. In this report, CPA sets out a range of processes and mechanisms available to the Sri Lankan government to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations and alleged crimes committed during the war. While many stakeholders are identified in the report, the ultimate responsibility for truth and justice in Sri Lanka lies with its citizens; accordingly they must play the central role in the design and implementation of future processes and mechanisms. CPA hopes that the options provided in this report enrich the discussions and debates about the design and implementation of a credible domestic process with the long term goal of achieving truth and justice in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s August elections have been timed to stop a comeback by war-time president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who remarkably may see his popularity rise in coming months if criticized for war crimes in a U.N report, said government sources.
New questions about wartime and post-war disappearances in Sri Lanka emerged following a bombshell revelation that the Government hs only 273 political detainees in its custody. Families of the disappeared believed the numbers are much higher. This announcement also hardens doubts if a Sri Lankan-led judicial process into mass atrocities, such as disappearances, will bring justice to the victims.
Sensing the international pressure on investigation into alleged war crimes during the Eelam War IV, Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday indicated that a domestic accountability mechanism would be in place before the 30 Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was scheduled to begin in September.
“Rajan Hoole’s Palmyra Fallen – a twofold critical investigation into (a) the immediate political context in which the Rajani Thiranagama assassination took place in September 1989 and (b) the run up to the military crushing of the LTTE and the aftermath of the state “war victory” of May 2009 – is published at a crucial time. In the book, Hoole suggests that the text serves as a twenty fifth year death anniversary commemoration to the slain academic-rights activist Rajani Thiranagama, but, more crucially, Palmyra Fallen provides a very insightful (in-sightful) engagement with the “War Crimes” debate – a forum that has been a pivot of the Lankan fate in both national and global politics over the past six years or so.”
The Sri Lankan government must also tell us its position on the UN investigation. Politicians, journalists and civil society activists should take advantage of the less repressive environment to engage with the report objectively, including local populations who may oppose it. The debate about whether follow-up steps to the UN investigation should be purely domestic, purely international or both, must be discussed internationally. But this is a debate that should happen primarily in Sri Lanka.
“However noble its motives, the Sirisena government must deal with the legacy of the past. Any delay in the release of the United Nations report must be brief. And the United Nations must remain involved. This is not a rebuke to Mr. Sirisena’s welcome intentions. It is simply the best way to guarantee that the inquiry is swift and independent, that witnesses are adequately protected and that perpetrators are finally punished.”
“The most diabolical and fiendishly clever policy position that the common opposition has taken is that they will not allow our war heroes to be tried by any international war crimes tribunal, but that any allegations of war crimes will be looked into by a domestic tribunal. The common opposition candidate himself has come before the people and pledged publicly that no international war crimes tribunal will be allowed to try any war hero. However he has given a statement which was carried in The Hindu and the Indian Express to the effect that a domestic mechanism would be set up to look into allegations of war crimes. This was later confirmed by Champika Ranawaka. The people of this country have got used to the idea that what is bad is an international inquiry into war crimes. By the mere addition of the word ‘domestic’ most people would be lulled into a sense of false security on the assumption that since such an inquiry will be conducted by ‘our people’ the war heroes will not face any problems.”
Sri Lanka’s president, under pressure from his main opponent in upcoming elections, on Tuesday promised a judicial inquiry into allegations that his troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war.
Sri Lanka’s main opposition presidential candidate said the country cannot be charged with war crimes in the International Criminal Court, but he will launch a domestic inquiry if he wins a January election.
JHU General Secretary and a front-liner of the common Opposition movement, Patali Champika Ranawaka today challenged the Rajapaksa regime to clarify the crimes that are being probed and punishments that would be meted out on those found guilty of war crimes by the Presidential Commission on Disappearances.
“The Obama administration has taken the lead internationally to promote accountability in Sri Lanka. The principal focus is on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s decades long civil war. But those efforts are also important to addressing the situation of Tamil, Muslim, and Christian minorities in Sri Lanka today.”
“Here I highlight the various laws that might assist the Justice Department and other agencies in prosecuting US citizen, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In another post back in May, I described some of the evidence in the public record about his alleged involvement in mass war crimes—for which the US government is interested in seeking accountability.”
Sri Lanka is urging the U.S. to avoid letting human rights concerns dominate the relationship between the countries five years after the end of a civil war that killed as many as 40,000 civilians.
Several Indian politicians on Friday questioned India’s decision to abstain from a United Nations Human Rights Council vote that approved an international investigation into war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels toward the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war.