Human Rights

‘UN credibility among Tamils very low’ - North-East grassroots organisations

Leading grassroots organisations from Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil regions have said that the credibility of the UN in the eyes of the Tamil people remains very low. In a letter critical of the UN announcement to facilitate a ‘domestic mechanism’ to probe war crimes, 15 civil society organisations in the North East, led by Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) have written to the UN rights chief requesting to prevent any action that could undermine the international investigation process.

‘‘Tamil people will not allow the UN process to be subverted,” Kumaravadivel Guruparan, co signatory to the letter sent on Friday (03) told JDS by phone. TCSF spokesperson Guruparan said that the announcement by the UN office in Sri Lanka stating that a domestic mechanism is the best way forward for accountability in Sri Lanka came as a shock.

‘Credible domestic mechanism’

The letter to High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein recalls with ‘serious concern’ the UN Resident Coordinator Subinai Nandy announcing the UN decision to provide ‘technical support to establish an inclusive and credible domestic mechanism to address human rights violations and accountability’. Delaying the UN report on Sri Lanka until September has been highlighted as one action that has contributed to the lack of confidence in the UN. The withdrawal of UN staff from the war affected areas during the height of the war in 2008 and failure to expose the grave right violations taking place during the war has been brought to the attention of the high commissioner as early examples, Guruparan said.

Consultation of victims

High Commissioner Al Hussein in his opening speech to the 29th session of the UN Human Rights commission in March emphasised the need of ‘a transparent and inclusive consultative process,’ that includes ‘all political parties, civil society, and above all victims and their families,’ to develop credible mechanisms for accountability and reconciliation.

However, the letter to the high commissioner regrets that the 15 organisations ‘are unaware of any such process of consultation that the Government of Sri Lanka has initiated with the victims.’ They urge the High Commissioner to act swiftly to prevent the undermining of the UN investigation process. “The follow up to the report has to further the international process towards seeking justice and accountability,” said Guruparan.

Three tests

Meanwhile, nine international human rights organisations also have said that Sri Lanka ‘should ensure that any mechanism created to address wartime abuses is defined through genuine consultations with those affected by violations'. In an open letter they have urged the member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the international community to ‘maintain the fullest scrutiny of Sri Lanka on questions of justice and accountability.' They have also called upon the government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and allow it full access to any new or additional information. These ‘tests should be satisfactorily met’  within the next two months to demonstrate the government’s ‘genuine willingness towards establishing a credible and transparent justice and accountability process,’ the open letter said.

In March, while delaying the publication of the long awaited UN report on Sri Lanka for six more months, the High Commissioner for Human Rights pledged his ‘personal, absolute and unshakable commitment’ that the report will be published by September 2015.

© JDS

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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