Published : 9:29 am  September 17, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (625) reads | 

hybrid2By Lakna Paranamanna
UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein yesterday called for the establishment of a hybrid special court system to tackle accountability issues in order to strengthen confidence, particularly in the victims, concerning the independence and impartiality of the process.

The High Commissioner made these remarks as he addressed the media last afternoon in Geneva, to shed light on the findings as well as the recommendations of the OISL (OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka) report that was released to the public yesterday, which ‘identified patterns of grave violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, strongly indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict’.

“For accountability to be achieved in Sri Lanka, it would require more than a domestic mechanism… Victims of past alleged crimes will not find any solace in a purely domestic mechanism due to many previous failed attempts at delivering justice,” the High Commissioner noted as he spoke on the significant recommendations proposed in the report, among which is the establishment of a special hybrid court that integrates international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.

He said such a special mechanism was essential against the backdrop of the details documented in the report on the years of denials and cover-ups, failure to carry out prompt investigations and the reprisals against family members, who sought justice for their loved ones.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein yesterday called for the establishment of a hybrid special court system to tackle accountability issues in order to strengthen confidence, particularly in the victims, concerning the independence and impartiality of the process.

However, the nature of the proposed hybrid court and the level of international participation were not clarified as the HC stated that it was still ‘premature to state in exact detail, what the working arrangements would be’.

He added the new set of institutions that had been proposed to be established domestically – as noted in Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s speech at the opening session on Monday – were welcome.

But he added that they must be complimented by an accountability mechanism with the support of the international community.
“It will deepen national involvement but also maintain international focus on Sri Lanka,” the High Commissioner said while adding that it would help ensure that the victims did not feel of the new mechanisms, as a replay of the past and would instead advance the course of justice and the victims in the years to come.

Among the other 22 recommendations made by the OISL report to the Government of Sri Lanka, is the inviting of the OHCHR to establish a fully-fledged country presence to monitor the human rights situation and advice on implementation of the High Commissioner’s recommendations.

It also calls on the government to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, so that jurisdictional coverage will be extended to any future crimes that might take place in the country.

Meanwhile, the 251-page report contain details of the most serious crimes documented during the period of 2002 – 2011 to which includes unlawful killings, sexual and gender-based violence committed by the Sri Lankan Security Forces, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, recruitment of children and their use in hostilities as well as abduction and forced recruitment of adults by the LTTE, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, denial of humanitarian assistance and violations during the detention of internally displaced people (IDPs) in closed camps.

The government fully recognised that the OISL represented a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation

“The severity of the crimes were most astonishing . . . The crimes of sexual nature made a harrowing reading. . .,” the High Commissioner stated as he commented to a query by a journalist concerning the crimes listed in the comprehensive report.

hybrid3However, commenting on the absence of naming individual culpability, he said it would be up to a criminal investigation to reveal such details as the OHCHR investigation was focused on human rights, which concentrated on the broader set of patterns that breached the threshold of the separation between ordinary crimes and crimes against humanity and war crimes.

He added that the lack of support on the part of the Sri Lankan authorities and the inability to access the people and records they needed, too contributed to such gaps including clarity concerning numbers.

“It has to be borne in mind, that this was a human rights investigation . . . a follow up criminal investigation would be required to join up the picture fully and to identify individual criminal responsibility more clearly and this is the work that would need to be forthcoming.”

Meanwhile, responding to a journalists’ question as to whether or not the OISL revealed genocide took place in Sri Lanka, High Commissioner Hussein said that it was not something that they perceived to have occurred in Sri Lanka at this stage.
“Had we thought acts of genocide had occurred, we would have raised this in the findings of the report… But that is not however to say that at a subsequent stage, it is implausible,” he added.

High Commissioner Zeid went on to state that he believed the OISL report had provided focus and clarity to the allegations levelled against Sri Lanka concerning abuses that occurred during the final phases of the conflict period, in a way that no previous UN report has done before and added that it has also provided grounds for a subsequent criminal investigation to proceed using the analysis based on the OISL report.

“This report would lead to efforts to end impunity for such crimes and create a most intense reckoning with the past. . . The country wouldn’t escape the stinging tentacles of its past unless victims receive justice,” he added.

Govt: Firm in conviction

By Lakna Paranamanna
The Government said that it would ensure that its findings and recommendations received due attention of the relevant authorities including the new mechanisms envisaged to be established.
The Government made the remarks in response to the UN report on Sri Lanka released yesterday.

While stating that it took note of the OISL report and its recommendations, the government further noted that it was both pleased and encouraged by High Commissioner Zeid’s recognition of the efforts of the new government in addressing issues of concerns for the Sri Lankans relating to ‘human rights, rule of law, governance, justice, institutional and legal reforms and reconciliation’.

The statement expressed appreciation towards the High Commissioner’s recognition of the government’s constructive engagement with the OHCHR in addressing post conflict issues.

“We are firm in our conviction to take all possible measures to ensure non-recurrence in keeping with the mandate given by the people of Sri Lanka twice this year 2015, at the Presidential Election in January and the Parliamentary Elections in August,” the statement said.

“Furthermore, the government notes that it would ensure that dialogue and wide consultations with all stakeholders are carried out, particularly the victims of the conflict, communities, political parties, civil society representatives and the OHCHR as well as the High Commissioner in facilitating the right to know, the right to justice, reparations and guaranteeing non-recurrence with the aim of achieving reconciliation and durable peace to ensure long-term progress of all Sri Lankans,” the statement said.

It also said that the government fully recognised that the OISL represented a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation and adds that it would be open to continuing engagement with the High Commissioner and its office as well as the systems and procedures of the HRC aimed at taking steps to safeguard and uphold the human rights of all Sri Lankans.