The United Nations (UN) today warned that the case filed in Brazil against former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya could be the “tip of the iceberg”.
Pablo de Greiff, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence told reporters in Colombo that Sri Lanka must address allegations similar to that faced by Jayasuriya or it may prove costly.
“As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the Armed Forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here or abroad. In my opinion, this is an additional reason for the country, with the full support of the Armed Forces –who stand a lot to gain from this process– to establish a robust and credible comprehensive transitional justice policy,” he said.
Human rights groups in South America had in August filed war crimes lawsuits against Jayasuriya accusing him of being in charge of military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit to Sri Lanka, Pablo de Greiff said Sri Lanka must ensure a credible accountable process is in place in Sri Lanka to address incidents related to the war.
“There is broad understanding of the fact that Sri Lanka faced in the past serious security challenges. Thus, Sri Lanka has not only the right, but the obligation, to provide security for all, compatible with human rights and other standards. Similarly, there is an understanding of the challenges faced by countries that attempt to face legacies of abuses while they simultaneously engage in democratizing and ambitious constitutional reforms. However, in assessing where and when to
attempt progress on the transitional justice agenda, the following considerations need to be kept in mind: as many other country experiences show, long delays between the acknowledgment of obligations to establish transitional justice measures and the fulfilment of these obligations involves risks: no one should be under the impression that waiting is a costless alternative,” he said.
He said the lack of tangible progress on emblematic cases suggests serious limitations of the current justice system in addressing human rights violations.
The Special Rapporteur also expressed disappointment that the transitional justice process in Sri Lanka has become politicised. (Colombo Gazette)
Report by Easwaran Rutnam