UN report details ‘horrific level of violations’ in Sri Lanka
Acknowledging that “horrific level of violations and abuses” occurred in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, a report prepared by the U.N. Human Rights Office (OHCHR), released in Geneva on Wednesday, recommended the establishment of a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.
“A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fuelled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises,” the report stated.
In March 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period between 2002 and 2011.
The period covers three events — the commencement of a ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in February 2002; the conclusion of the Eelam War in May 2009 and the submission of final report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in November 2011. [The LLRC was established by the previous regime headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010].
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told a press conference in Geneva that the “violations and abuses” included “indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, recruitment of children and other grave crimes,”
He added that “importantly, the report reveals violations that are among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.” The High Commissioner urged all communities and sections of society, including the diaspora, to view the report as “an opportunity to change discourse from one of absolute denial to one of acknowledgment and constructive engagement to bring about change.”
The OHCHR report added that “the domestic criminal justice system [in Sri Lanka] also needs to be strengthened and reformed, so it can win the confidence of the public, but that is a process which will take several years to achieve and needs to be undertaken in parallel to the establishment of a special hybrid court, not in place of it. Indeed such a court may help stimulate the reforms needed to set Sri Lanka on a new path to justice, building public confidence along the way.”