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‘Why has Sri Lanka’s Transitional Justice process failed to deliver?’



The Sri Lankan government has made “empty promises” on transitional justice and its willingness to tackle impunity, which is “evidenced by a litany of failures”, write Yasmin Sooka and Frances Harrison for the London School of Economics’ South Asia blog this week.

South African transitional justice expert Yasmin Sooka and former BBC correspondent Frances Harrison of the International Truth and Justice Project, stated Sri Lanka’s “promise to set up a hybrid court was quickly abandoned and the victims’ consultation report disowned by the government”.

“Tackling what the UN called “systems crimes” in a country like Sri Lanka takes political will and leadership, courage and national ownership,” they added. “The international community has failed to hold the political leadership in Sri Lanka accountable for the commitments made in Geneva in 2015.”

They went on to say Sri Lanka was a “failed state” and that “the current government has been unable to tackle impunity is evidenced by a litany of failures”.

Instead of tackling these issues, Colombo has gone on to promote alleged war criminals and continue committing human rights abuses with the piece stating “not surprisingly, the abductions, torture and sexual violence by the army and police have continued in much the same way as before but not so visibly”. 

“The last few months have shown how hollow their commitment was; the champions of the transitional justice process have reversed course very fast as they eye forthcoming elections,” they added.

The piece went on to conclude,

“The signs were there all along but ignored. Human rights simply weren’t prioritised sufficiently by donors and diplomats. When the President violated the Constitution in October last year by trying to sack the Prime Minister there was international outrage at the notion that democratic institutions could be challenged. Parliament and the Judiciary moved swiftly to act. Where is that outrage over the failure to hold anyone accountable for the mass atrocities of the war and can the same institutions rise to addressing with the militarisation and securitisation of the state in which an entrenched impunity which will continue to flourish if unchallenged.”

See the full text here.