Pillay demands international probe in Sri Lanka

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has demanded an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, which could also monitor any domestic accountability process.

In a report on Sri Lanka to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council February – March session, a draft of which she has also sent to the government, Pillay notes that while the government has made significant progress in rebuilding infrastructure; and while the majority of internally displaced persons have been resettled, considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation and resumption of livelihoods.

In a set of recommendations to the government mentioned in the report, Pilay calls for the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice.

She has also called for the drafting of laws dealing with witness and victim protection, the right to information, the criminalization of enforced disappearances and the revision of existing laws to bring them into line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Other recommendations include: Strengthening and ensuring the independence of national institutions; The development of a national reparations policy in line with international standards; Invite special procedures mandate holders with outstanding requests to make country visits, particularly those who have offered assistance pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 19/2; Hold public and inclusive consultations on the national plan of action for implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with a view to revising and expanding its scope and clarifying commitments and responsibilities; Revisit and implement the Commission’s recommendation on appointing a special commissioner of investigation into disappearances, and extend tracing programmes to include all missing persons; Open proceedings of military courts of inquiry and future trials of LTTE detainees to independent observers to increase public confidence, and allow proceedings to be evaluated in line with international standards; Publish the final report of the presidential commission of inquiry 2006 to allow the evidence gathered to be evaluated and accept international assistance to resolve outstanding cases; Take further steps in demilitarization and devolution to involve minority communities fully in decision-making processes; Engage civil society and minority community representatives in dialogue on appropriate forms of commemoration and memorialization that will advance inclusion and reconciliation.

Pillay notes in her report that achieving reconciliation following decades of violence and mistrust is challenging in any context, but is only possible through a genuine, consultative and inclusive process that addresses the grievances of all those affected by the conflict, in an environment where the rule of law and human rights for all are respected.

She says that while the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission had some limitations, it nonetheless made significant and far-reaching recommendations for reconciliation and strengthening the rule of law.

The UN Human Rights Chief says the Government therefore has a unique opportunity to build upon the Commission’s work and findings to move towards a more all-encompassing and comprehensive policy on accountability and reconciliation.

In her report the High Commissioner stressed on the importance of a comprehensive approach addressing all the elements of transitional justice, including criminal justice and accountability, and of clear benchmarks with which to measure progress, based on Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations.

She expressed her hope of seeing meaningful progress in the areas described above before her country visit in the first half of 2013. In a letter of reply dated 17 December 2012, the Minister for External Affairs suggested that the High Commissioner visit Sri Lanka in early 2013 to assess first-hand the situation on the ground, which would then provide a meaningful basis on which to identify possible areas of technical assistance. (Colombo Gazette)

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