The Sri Lankan government has vowed to pay “due attention” to the content and recommendations of a report released by the U.N. on Wednesday on the alleged war crimes in the country.
This assurance has been given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a communication addressed to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The communication said the government recognised “fully” that the report represented “a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation”.
It would also ensure dialogue and wide consultations with all stakeholders, especially the victims of the conflict, in putting in place mechanisms that would facilitate the right to know and the right to justice besides reparations and guaranteeing non-recurrence [of violence]. The aim of the process would be to achieve “reconciliation and durable peace”. The stakeholders included political parties, civil society representatives and the military.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka, in its report, urged Sri Lanka to establish a special court to try the “horrific” abuses committed by the authorities as well as the rebels in the last phase of the country’s civil war.
The government felt “pleased and encouraged” by the recognition of the UN High Commissioner [Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein] of its efforts after the Presidential election in January in various issues such as human rights, rule of law, governance and justice. It also appreciated the “due recognition” given by the UN body to its “constructive engagement” with the High Commissioner and OHCHR, aimed at addressing post-conflict issues that impact on achieving reconciliation.
The government, according to the Foreign Ministry statement, “remains open to continuing its engagement with the High Commissioner and his office as well as the systems and procedures of the Human Rights Council, aimed at taking steps to safeguard and uphold the human rights of all her citizens.”
The report found fault both with the authorities and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in respect of “unlawful killing”, it pulled up the former on several counts, including “sexual and gender-based violence”, “enforced disappearances”, and “torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
As regards the detention of internally displaced people, the report said: “Almost 300,000 IDPs were deprived of their liberty in camps for periods far beyond what is permissible under international law.” The report was critical of the LTTE in respect of “recruitment of children and their use in hostilities”.
International mechanism Expressing happiness over the report, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran, said the U.N. body accepted that an international mechanism was “absolutely essential” in the background of “various shortcomings” that the Sri Lankan judiciary had been experiencing. He expressed hope that the resolution to be adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month would be “strong enough” to make sure that there would be an international mechanism which would look into the issue of war crimes.
Earlier in the day, after the release of the report, High Commissioner Al-Hussein 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.”