During the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein gave an oral update on the reconciliation, accountability and human rights process in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, expressed the government’s position on the matter.
On 22 June 2016, during the 32nd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, legal experts from the Monitoring Accountability Panel (“MAP”) gave their assessment of the Sri Lankan Government’s transitional justice programme to date.
The panel discussion was chaired by eminent jurist, Geoffrey Robertson QC, and included a detailed assessment by US lawyer, Ms Heather Ryan. The full presentation can be found here:
Ms Heather Ryan’s intervention starts at 15:40, below:
The Sri Lanka Monitoring and Accountability Panel (“MAP”) notes with great concern the appointment on 9 February 2016 of Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka to parliament as a national list member.
Field Marshall Fonseka was the commander of the Sri Lankan army in May 2009 and was in that capacity responsible for the actions of troops who are widely believed to have carried out war crimes and crimes against humanity. Successive governments in Sri Lanka have failed to investigate those allegations, and whilst the present regime has made apparent commitments to do so, the current appointment casts serious doubt on the partiality of any process it initiates or undertakes.
No proper and impartial investigation of the events of May 2009 could fail to examine the acts and omissions of Mr Fonseka. His appointment as an MP sends a chilling signal to the victims of the crimes allegedly committed by his subordinates. No less significant is the timing of this appointment. Made as it was during the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Sri Lanka, it is an affront not only to the victims but also to the United Nations and the international community.
The MAP notes with concern the recent statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena (BBC interview, 21 January 2016) that he will “never agree to international involvement” in the special war crimes court. This statement goes against both the word and spirit of the Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HRC/30/L.29). The Sri Lankan Government must not be allowed to backtrack on its commitments to establish a special court with international judges and prosecutors.
In light of the upcoming visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Sri Lanka, the MAP has sent an Open Letter to the High Commissioner urging him to insist on broad consultations with all stakeholders, followed by full and proper implementation of the Resolution.
The Open Letter, dated 3 February 2016, is available here: