Let foreign judges probe war crimes: UN to Lanka

Let foreign judges probe war crimes: UN to Lanka

 The UN's human rights body today unanimously recommended a credible probe involving foreign judges and prosecutors into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka in the brutal war against the LTTE, a resolution on which was surprisingly co-sponsored by Colombo.

The 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its ongoing 30th session here approved by consensus a crucial resolution led by the US and the UK, and backed by Sri Lanka itself, in a move hailed by international advocacy groups.

According to a UNHRC spokesperson, there was no voting and there were no last-minute revisions in the text of the draft resolution titled "Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka".

The resolution calls for establishment of a Sri Lankan Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law during the final phase of the nearly three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict that ended in military defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

Rights groups claim that the military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months.
The proposed mechanism will include Special Counsel's office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators.

Besides asking Sri Lanka to form a credible judicial system for the probe, the resolution - based on a landmark report issued by the UN last month - also calls on Sri Lanka to allow for punishment of "those most responsible for the full range of crimes".

There was no immediate reaction from Colombo on how the Sri Lankan government received the news on the resolution in view of the fact that Sri Lankan laws do not allow operation of foreign judges and prosecutors on its soil.

The resolution encourages the Sri Lankan government to reform its domestic law to ensure that it can effectively implement its own commitments, the recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), as well as the recommendations of the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the trial and punishment of those most responsible for the full range of alleged war crimes.

It also calls for the government to introduce effective security sector reforms as part of its transitional justice process that will help enhance the reputation and professionalism of the military.

The government is encouraged not to retain or recruit anyone implicated in human rights violations and increase training and incentives focussed on the promotion and protection of human rights of all Sri Lankans, the Colombo Page reported.

Last month, in a blow to Sri Lanka's insistence on a purely domestic probe, a report by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein had favoured creation of a hybrid court including international judges to probe the alleged war crimes.

Yesterday also, Hussein in a statement via videolink to the Human Rights Council recommended the formation of the hybrid court citing three reasons - that Sri Lanka lacks a reliable system for victim and witness protection; the domestic legal framework is inadequate to deal with international crimes of this magnitude; and its security sector and justice system have been "distorted and corrupted by decades of impunity".

Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha said his country will give "due attention" to Hussein's report.

The Sri Lankan government has been resisting foreign probe and has promised a fair probe into the alleged war crimes by troops.

Reacting to the approval of the resolution, international rights groups said it recognises the "terrible crimes".

"The adoption of this resolution is a turning point for human rights in Sri Lanka, and crucially recognises terrible crimes committed by both parties during the armed conflict," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's South Asia Research Director.

Ambassador Julian Braithwaite of the UK, one of four co-sponsors along with the US, Montenegro and Macedonia, hailed the "historic" achievement because Sri Lanka's increasingly democratic government backed the resolution.

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