Task Force report to add pressure at UNHRC

The Government is to face pressure at the UN Human Rights Council in March to fully implement the recommendations of the Consultation Task Force report on Reconciliation Mechanisms.

Human rights groups and diaspora organizations are to push the Council to ensure the Government does not sideline the report like the former Government did with the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report.

The 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will be held in Geneva from 27 February to 24 March 2017.

Sri Lanka will be discussed at the session on March 22 and the Task Force report is expected to put in the spotlight.

The Task Force has proposed to have foreign judges to investigate incidents related to the war but it was almost immediately rejected by the Government.

Government spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told reporters at a media briefing last week that anyone can make a proposal calling for foreign judges to be involved in the probe on the war but the Government stand is final.

The Final Consultation Task Force report on Reconciliation Mechanisms which was handed over to former President Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumarathunga, has called for a hybrid court to hear cases related to the war.

The Task Force has proposed that international participation in Sri Lanka be phased out once confidence is established in a purely domestic mechanism.

Senaratne said that even if a Government appointed committee makes a proposal it is for the Government to decide the way forward.

The Minister had said the Government is clear in its stand that a purely domestic mechanism will be used to investigate incidents related to the war while foreign technical assistance will be used if required.

The report of the Task Force combines and provides a detailed understanding of the consultations that have taken place over the past year.

The Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms said the report will be of key importance in setting up subsequent Transitional Justice Mechanisms that are envisioned by the Government and the findings of the report will be taken into consideration when designing the aforementioned Transitional Justice mechanisms.

The current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has welcomed the recommendations by the reconciliation Task Force, especially the call for foreign judges to be included in the accountability process on the war.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has always urged the creation of a hybrid court in Sri Lanka.

A Reminder of the LLRC

The Government’s refusal to accept all the recommendations of the Task Force is a reminder of how the former Government reacted to some proposals by the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

When the LLRC submitted a comprehensive post war report, the Government responded in 2012 by saying it will not fully implement the recommendations of the repot despite the report being part of a resolution adopted then by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Nimal Siripala de Silva, who was in the Government back then, had said that the Government does not see the LLRC report as being a “Bible” despite the commission being appointed by the Government itself.

This newspaper quotes him from March 2012 as saying that the commission, in formulating its recommendations, had in some instances gone beyond its mandate and as a result the Government must now decide what to accept and what not to accept.

The UN Human Rights Council had in March 2012 adopted a resolution by a majority vote, calling for the full implementation of the LLRC report.

However de Silva said that the Government has a duty to look at the repercussions implementing the full report may have on the country plus it also needs to form a consensus among its coalition partners.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the LLRC soon after a 30 year war between the army and the LTTE came to an end in 2009 with the defeat of the rebels.

On the 26th of January 2016 Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe appointed Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama AAL (Chair), Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Secretary), Dr. Farzana Haniffa, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, Mr. Mirak Raheem, Mr. Gamini Viyangoda, Ms. Shantha Abimanasingham P.C, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa, Mr. K. W. Janaranjana AAL, and Prof. Daya Somasundaram as members of a Consultation Task Force On Reconciliation Mechanisms.

The Task Force is drawn entirely from civil society and is an independent body. It will issue regular statements on its work and produce a report at the end of the consultation process that will be made public.

The Task Force had noted following its appointment that the Government had pledged to take into consideration the findings of the consultationsin the design of the transitional justice process.

The letter of appointment of the Task Force notes that it is mandated to “carry out a wide process of consultations on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka.”

The process was to focus on ascertaining views of the public “regarding the steps they would like Government to take, including mechanisms to be established to ensure a durable peace, promote and protect human rights of all, strengthen the rule of law, administration of justice, good governance, reconciliation and non- recurrence including measures for reparations in line with the ideas for mechanisms that the Government proposes to establish, which were articulated at the human rights council.”


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