Geneva gears up to dump Tamil mothers' appeal for war crimes accountability

Plans are afoot to grant Sri Lanka another lease of life to deliver unfulfilled pledges on war crimes accountability despite continuous opposition.

Sri Lanka is yet to completely implement commitments on truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation made at the UN four years ago.

War affected Tamils with no faith in the government have been waiting for nearly a decade for global powers to help deliver.
In 2017, Sri Lanka was granted its first extension despite opposition by victims.

Since then, hundreds of military landgrab victims and relatives of disappeared have been on a continuous protest, with no solution.

A draft resolution circulated by Britain, Germany, Canada, Montenegro and Macedonia in Geneva, where the Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) is having its 40th session, calls to extend the time given to Sri Lanka, again.

The five countries are known as the 'core group'.

JDS has seen a copy of the draft, which appreciates the human rights record of the government.

It recommends the UNHRC  to request, “the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and to present a written update to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session, and a comprehensive report, followed by a discussion on the implementation of Council resolution 30/1, at its forty-sixth session.”

"Non starter"

At the onset of the Geneva session war affected Tamils appealed to the UN human rights chief against granting more time to Sri Lanka.

“Giving any more time to Sri Lanka is a non-starter and will further embolden the Security Forces to continue their abuses against us and cover-up and destroy vital war crimes evidences,” said the appeal addressed to High Commissioner Michele Bachelet.

They urged the global rights body to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to a specially created international criminal tribunal for Sri Lanka.

In contract to the awareness of victims, the draft resolution had a positive outlook on Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

It had special reference to the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) that commenced work a year ago.

“The establishment of the Office on Missing Persons in September 2017 and the appointment of its Commissioners in February 2018 and the assumption of its work to fully implement its mandate,” was welcomed by the resolution.

However, the OMP itself was disappointed about the absence of government commitment in implementing its recommendations presented to President Maithripala Sirisena six months ago.

“In August 2018 the OMP issued an interim report proposing interim relief to the families as well as recommendations in the quest for justice and truth,” said a press release by OMP chairperson Saliya Pieris marking one year since the establishment of the Office.

The interim report containing immediate remedies was passed over to yet another committee led by ruling party politicians.

War affected Tamils seeking justice for nearly a decade have urged the High Commissioner as well as the diplomatic community to commit Sri Lanka to a time frame if the government is granted an extension.

The core group seems to have taken note of the request.


"Noting other steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement Human Rights Council resolution 30/1, including progress towards establishing an Office on Reparations and the submission to cabinet of a concept paper on a Bill to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the proposed repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1978 and the preparation of a draft Counter Terrorism Act, while reiterating in this context the need for further significant progress and encouraging in this regard the adoption of a time-bound implementation strategy," says the draft resolution.

However, the "concept paper on a Bill to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission," has been put on hold by the cabinet of ministers following reservations expressed by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The president wanted to study the proposal further, Ministers told journalists in Colombo.

Moves to introduce a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been slammed by a former UN rights chief.

"I am disappointed to learn that on the eve of the interactive dialogue on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’(OHCHR) report on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council, the Government of Sri Lanka is resorting to yet another delaying tactic to escape......implementation of Resolution 30/1,” Navi Pillay has told Colombo based newspaper Ceylon Today  in response to an announcement by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe on setting up a TRC.

The draft Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) has also come under heavy criticism from sections of the human rights community at home and abroad.

Notwithstanding the appeal by war affected Tamils, the draft resolution is expected to be adopted by the UNHRC with minor changes.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.