Quintus Colombage, Colombo
Updated: March 13, 2019 05:47 AM GMT
A Sri Lankan Tamil woman holds a picture of a missing loved one during a gathering to remember those who have been missing for nearly a decade since the end of the country's drawn out separatist war in the capital Colombo on Feb. 14, 2018. (Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)
A U.N. investigative body is calling on the Sri Lankan government to establish a hybrid court to handle allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses.
The U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it should be comprised of international judges, lawyers and investigators.
The government was embroiled for three decades in a brutal civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an insurgent group that aimed to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the country's North and East. It was finally defeated by the Sri Lankan military in 2009.
The LTTE and the government were both accused of human rights violations during the civil war. The U.N. said at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of the conflict.
In its report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the OHCHR highlighted the country's failure to comply with some of the commitments it has made.
Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, recommended the government invite the OHCHR to establish a fully-fledged country office to monitor the human rights situation.
It would be tasked with providing technical assistance and giving advice on the how to implement the recommendations made by the High Commissioner, the OHCHR, and other human rights mechanisms.
"The lack of progress shows that the situation of human rights in the country should remain firmly on the agenda of the Human Rights Council," said Jeria, in a March 7 report called “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka."
It is due to be formally presented for discussion with U.N. member states on March 20 in Geneva.
The report noted that all cases of detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act needed to be reviewed, with the aim of either releasing them or bringing them quickly to trial.
"Promptly investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture and other gross human rights violations," said Jeria, the former president of Chile.
She said member countries should continue to accompany Sri Lankans in their efforts to address past violations by supporting the establishment of adequate systems of accountability.
On a positive note, she noted the government has been actively engaging with the OHCHR and other U.N. human rights mechanisms since January 2015.
Both presidents have made many promises to the Tamils about rebuilding their lives and forging a new constitution.
Meanwhile, the World Patriotic Lankan Forum organized a protest against Jeria's report at the UNHRC headquarters in Geneva on March 10.
It called on member countries to refrain from pressuring Sri Lanka.
Arul Prakasam, a Tamil rights activist from Mannar, said the U.N.’s participation in the transitional justice process, including criminal prosecutions, would help restore the confidence of the victims’ families.
Prakasam, who fights for people’s land rights in the North, listed a litany of problems Sri Lanka needs to overcome.
"No justice for torture victims, arbitrary detention, unlawful arrest, sexual violence, and a lack of confidence in local police and legal officers," he said.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.