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UN Urged Not to Fail on Sri Lanka for the Second Time

September 14, 2015
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

Over fifty eminent citizens around the globe have called upon the UN top human rights body to establish an independent international judicial process to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed in Sri Lanka's civil war.

"In 2009, the world failed to protect Sri Lankan civilians. In 2015, we urge you to rectify that failure by mounting a credible judicial process," says an open letter sent today (14) to member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Rejecting US sponsored moves to get a Sri Lanka government led domestic inquiry approved by the Council, the letter says, ' even with the best intentions in the world the Sri Lankan government is not capable of running a credible domestic inquiry into the alleged crimes of its own forces'.

'victors court'

Signatory to the open letter, Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of The Oakland Institute in USA, called a domestic inquiry by the government of Sri Lanka which won the war a 'victors court'.

"We have many reasons to be concerned by such a process, including the history of impunity in the country; continuation of a silent war  through military occupation and Sinhalization of the North and East; and  fierce discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese majority. Under these circumstances, true justice for the victims and survivors will remain an empty promise.” she told JDS.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights established an investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) in June 2014 following a resolution adopted by the Council in March on ' Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka'.

Militarised North - East

The open letter reminds member states that the OISL was initiated by the UNHRC 'because it had concluded that the Sri Lankan government was neither willing nor capable of carrying out its own domestic investigation into those crimes'.

Progress made by the Maithripala Sirisena led government in confronting corruption and instituting democratic reforms has been praised by the eminent citizens. However, the letter goes to say that the reforms 'should not be confused with justice for victims'.

"In effect, democracy is being restored in Sri Lanka’s South, while the largely Tamil lands of the North East remain under military occupation," it says.

Emphasising the futility of a domestic inquiry by a government that has reinstated and promoted army commanders accused of direct command responsibility for war crimes, the eminent citizens say that the factors which led the UNHRC to conclude that an international inquiry was necessary have not changed.

OISL Report

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain is scheduled to present the findings of his office on allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka to the Council on the 30th of September.

The UNHRC 30th session runs  in Geneva from 14 September to 2 October.

"The release of the OISL report should not mark the end of the international community's responsibility to the people of Sri Lanka," warn the group of eminent citizens.

Read the full text of the open letter