Sri Lanka's commitment to genuine war crimes probe questioned

Angered by evidently contradictory statements by the topmost ruling duo about a future war crimes probe in Sri Lanka, almost 150 grassroots organisations, rights activists and politicians throughout the island have questioned the government’s willingness to establish a genuine accountability process.

Condemning the statement to BBC by President Maithripala Sirisena rejecting foreign involvement in a war crimes probe, activists in the island said in a hard-hitting statement that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe 'appeared to be engaging in damage control when he stated that that the Government will abide by commitments given in Geneva' while speaking to British TV Channel 4.

Foreign judges

Earlier, international rights groups and the country's main opposition, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had accused the president of backtracking on the pledges made at the UN Human Rights Council in co-sponsoring a resolution for accountability in October 2015.

The resolution calls upon Colombo to establish a credible judicial process, with the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorised prosecutors and investigators.

"We demand that the Government issue a policy statement clarifying its position on the UNHRC resolution, in particular its stance with regard to the commitment to institute a hybrid process," said the 144 signatories in a statement released to media on January 28.

'Only local judges'

However, the same day the statement was released, the government's official spokesman reiterated the president’s standpoint that there won't be any foreign judicial involvement in the domestic investigation process.

Speaking to journalists in Colombo, Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that the only foreign component in the process will be 'technical and other assistance'. 

“What the prime minister has said is also that the investigation will be totally domestic,” the minister confirmed.

PM's 'callous remark'

The statement by Sri Lanka grassroots organisations on Thursday, rights activists also call upon the prime minister to disclose what happened to the disappeared thousands who he claims to be dead.

"This callous remark by the Prime Minister, which has caused much anguish to victim families, is representative of the Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the issue of enforced disappearances," it further said.



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.