A US-initiated draft resolution on Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations has called for a domestic judicial mechanism that includes foreign judges to probe the war crimes during the conflict with the LTTE, a development that may help it avoid an international inquiry.
The draft resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the US the UK, Macedonia and Montenegro was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva yesterday with several amendments to the original text proposed earlier in the week, officials here said today.
The resolution comes a week after the publication of a long-awaited UN report that called for establishing a hybrid court to probe the horrific atrocities, specially during the last stages of the three-decade conflict.
Titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, the draft resolution is still open for last minute amendments before before it is taken up for a vote next week. Sri Lanka, which has been insisting on a domestic mechanism, was trying to water-down the tone of the resolution after last weeks UNHRC report.
The draft resolution submitted “maintains its call on the government to investigate all alleged attacks by individuals and groups on journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society, as well as places of worship, and to hold perpetrators of such attacks to account and to take steps to prevent such attacks in the future.
The draft resolution said it “welcomes the government’s recognition that accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and build confidence in the people of all communities of Sri Lanka in the justice system.
It “takes note with appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable.
The resolution said it “affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators,” the draft resolution states.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry has described the resolution as one which marks an important step toward a credible transitional justice process, owned by Sri Lankans and with the support and involvement of the international community.
Kerry said the resolution lays out a path to provide truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence that the Sri Lankan people deserve while safeguarding the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted themselves with honour and professionalism.
Sri Lanka may avoid an international inquiry into atrocities committed during its lengthy civil war if a new UN resolution is adopted next week.
Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party TNA welcomed the text of the draft resolution.
“We welcome the draft resolution’s call on Sri Lanka to involve foreign and Commonwealth judges, lawyers, investigators and defenders in a judicial mechanism to be set up in Sri Lanka that would be mandated to try international crimes,” the The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said in a statement.
“This constitutes a significant victory for justice in Sri Lanka. The TNA is committed to help the government and international stakeholders evolve such a court, and will support its work,” it said.
“We also wish to note our appreciation of the government’s assent to this text and its willingness to co-sponsor it in the Human Rights Council. A court established on these lines would represent a dramatic break from the past and could herald the beginning of an end to impunity,” the statement said.
“The draft resolution tabled…Was the product of a difficult consensus. We are acutely aware that some of the language used in the interests of a consensus will not satisfy all victims of the conflict whom we represent and who have reposed their trust in the TNA,” it said.
“However, we are of the view that the draft provides a constructive starting point for what will inevitably be a long road to reconciliation.”
Lanka government had said it will go ahead with a domestic mechanism next month to probe war crimes during final phase of the battle against the LTTE but stopped short of backing a hybrid court with international judges proposed by the UN rights body in a damning indictment.
Rights groups claim Sri Lankan troops killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the war with the LTTE in 2009.
New York-based Human Rights Watch yesterday said at the current draft was “counterproductive” to the reconciliation efforts of the government.