UN rebut Sri Lanka allegation on agreement to drop foreign judges

The United Nations denied that it's top rights official had any agreement as claimed by Sri Lanka government to retain local judges only in a future war crimes probe.

Applauding the first ever report on reconciliation authored by the country's civil society activists that called for a victim centred approach in delivering justice to the war affected, the UN human rights council said that it especially welcomes the "backing of hybrid court with local and foreign judges".

The report running to more than 500 pages was compiled by the Consultation Task Force On Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) following island wide public consultation.

Immediately after the release of the report Sri Lanka categorically rejected a key recommendation that called for the involvement of "at least one international judge" in the hearing of every case related to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Rubbishing the recommendation, government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne told journalists, "any organisation can say anything. The government position is, no foreign judges".

What Zeid said

He went further to assert that the UN and it's human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussain too had approved that position.

"UN representatives have also agreed. Even Al Hussain who came here also had agreed to it."

Minister Senaratne was referring to the visit to Sri Lanka in February last year by the UN human rights commissioner who called for "international participation in the accountability mechanisms set up to deal with international crimes and gross human rights violations."

The day after Sri Lanka's claim, UN denied that it had any agreement with the Sri Lankan government to bar international judges.

"Zeid had always urged the creation of a hybrid court in Sri Lanka," tweeted the UNHRC stressing that the high commissioners position on significant foreign involvement since the UN found evidence of international crimes during the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka.

'No trust, but hopeful'

Secretary to the CTF, Paikyasothy Saravanamuttu had told journalists earlier that the call of war victims was for heavy international involvement in any judicial process probing war crimes.

"I don't have trust, but I am hopeful," he had told JDS in October last year.

The CTF appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, said foreign involvement was required due to the lack of confidence in the local judiciary, which does not have the expertise and capacity to prosecute war crimes in addition to having shown its inability to recognise the needs of victims.

The government of Sri Lanka has been defiant that any investigation to the conduct of its security  forces will only be carried out by local judges.



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.