President says mechanism in line with Constitution

Maithripala SirisenaPresident Maithripala Sirisena says he would keep an open mind with regards to the judicial process to investigate incidents related to the war and make sure it was in keeping with Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

Sri Lanka does not allow foreign lawyers to practice in its courts, an aide to the president said later, and it was not possible for the country to set up a new international court without amending the Constitution, which would be extremely difficult politically.

“The mechanism must be domestic,” President Sirisena said in an interview in the US, according to he New York Times.

Sirisena said the court would be established after what he called careful consultations with religious leaders, politicians and military officials.

Setting up a war crimes tribunal, involving foreigners no less, is a highly delicate matter. It follows a report by the United Nations, which concluded that both sides had likely committed war crimes and that an independent judicial process involving foreign judges was needed, with the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, saying bluntly that Sri Lanka is “not currently equipped to conduct an independent and credible investigation.”

The report described extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and gave accounts of torture and sexual violence. (Sri Lanka is not a party to the International Criminal Court.)

“I took over a country isolated by the international community,” Sirisena said. “The main challenge I faced was to win over the international community. I believe these efforts have borne fruit.”

Asked for evidence, his ambassador to the United States, Prasad Kariyawasam, said that the president had been offered a seat at the head table at lunch with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with President Barack Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Sirisena said his offer of assistance in peacekeeping efforts had been welcomed. (Colombo Gazette)