Sri Lanka – Expert Panel Nominated To Monitor Transitional Justice

UN Sri LankaThe Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (“TGTE”) has nominated a panel of five legal experts to monitor the design and implementation of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka, including the judicial measures to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (“Monitoring Accountability Panel” or “MAP”).

Following the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, dated 16 September 2015, and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,’ dated 1 October 2015, the Sri Lankan Government undertook to establish accountability mechanisms to address the crimes committed during the Sri Lankan armed conflict. These will include a special criminal court with foreign judges and prosecutors.

The MAP will provide independent monitoring, advice, and recommendations, focusing on the effectiveness of accountability measures from a victims’ perspective. It will also consider issues of fair trial and due process for suspects and accused persons. The views and recommendations of the Panel will enable victims and other stakeholders to participate more effectively in the process and thus enhance the legitimacy of the measures.

The MAP shall formulate its opinions independently – irrespective of party political considerations or the agenda of any specific group (including the TGTE) – according to the interests of fair justice, applying international standards and best practices. The initial mandate of the Panel shall run from November 2015 to December 2016.

The Members of the Monitoring Accountability Panel have been selected for their legal expertise in international criminal law and human rights, national war crimes courts, and regional criminal cases. The Panel Members (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Marie Guiraud (France)
  • Peter Haynes QC (UK)
  • Richard J Rogers (UK)
  • Heather Ryan (USA)
  • Justice Ajit Prakash Shah (India)
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC will act as a consultant to the Panel, providing additional independent advice.

Sri Lanka: Judge Says War Crimes Claims Are Credible

Sri Lanka Civil WarA government-appointed Sri Lankan judge, Maxwell Paranagama, says allegations the army committed war crimes during the long conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels are “credible”.

The judge was leading the first government inquiry into the atrocities, one month after the UN released its own findings.

The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, has already vowed to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate further.

In his report, the judge said there were “credible allegations which […] may show that some members of the armed forces committed acts during the final phase of the war that amounted to war crimes giving rise to individual criminal responsibility”.

He called on the government to set up an internationally-backed judicial inquiry, which was also recommended in the UN report in September.

The UN report found that the sheer number of allegations, their gravity, recurrence and the similarities in their modus operandi, as well as the consistent pattern of conduct they indicated, all pointed towards system crimes. It emphasised that violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes were allegedly committed by all parties to the conflict.

Among the crimes that were identified were unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of civilians by Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary groups as well as brutal use of torture, particularly in the aftermath of the armed conflict when former. The report also says that there are reasonable grounds to believe that rape and other forms of sexual violence by security forces personnel was widespread against both male and female detainees.

The Sri Lankan war started in 1983 when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE) started an insurgency against the Sri Lankan government in order to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. In 2009, the Sri Lankan military defeated the LTTE, bringing the 26-year civil war to an end. The UN estimates that 40,000 Tamils died in the final army offensive.

UN Report Calls for Special Court to Prosecute Sri Lanka War Crimes

UN Sri LankaToday, a long-delayed report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for accountability for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka, was released to the public. The report includes the principal findings of OHCHR’s investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights committed during the 26-year armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

The OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), a special team established by the former High Commissioner Navi Pillay, identified several crimes that were committed between 2002 and 2011, which, if established in a court of law, could amount to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.

The OISL called on the Government of Sri Lanka to adopt specific legislation establishing an ad hoc hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, mandated to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The OISL also called on the Government of Sri Lanka to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Sri Lanka’s government said on Monday that it was setting up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to look into the atrocities. However, the UN report found that Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system was not yet ready or equipped to conduct independent and credible investigations into the allegations contained in the OISL report, or to hold accountable those responsible for the violations. Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s Army Displaces and Expropriates Tamil People


Sinhalese army and Tamil people

A new report claims that post-conflict harmony in Sri Lanka is undermined by military occupation in north and east, combined with land grabs that have marginalised Tamil people.

The report, published by the US based thinktank the Oakland Institute and entitled “The Long Shadow of War: The Struggle for Justice in Postwar Sri Lanka”, finds little meaningful evidence of reconciliation after the 26-year-long conflict between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists finally ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamils.

It says hopes of peaceful coexistence are being thwarted by the enduring displacement of Tamils, the appropriation of their land by the military, the new government’s refusal to take the country off its war footing, and the delay in investigating allegations of war crimes committed by both state forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The report also describes the Sinhalese army’s ongoing occupation of what the government terms “high security zones” in the north and east of the country. The report estimates that in 2014, there were at least 160,000 almost entirely Sinhalese soldiers stationed in the north, which means that there is one soldier for every six civilians, as the area’s population stands at a little more than 1 million people.

The report argues that the military occupation has long ceased to be about ensuring security.

“The army has expanded non-military activities and is engaged in large-scale property development, construction projects, and business ventures such as travel agencies, farming, holiday resorts, restaurants, and innumerable cafes that dot the highways in the northern and eastern provinces,” it says. “The army officially runs luxury resorts and golf courses that have been erected on land seized from now–internally displaced peoples.” Continue reading