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Amnesty on Sri Lanka's LLRC

Amnesty International has released a new report criticising Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as "flawed at every level".

The report went on to urge the UN to establish a full international independent investigation into war crimes.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia Pacific Director said,

"The Sri Lankan government has, for almost two years, used the LLRC as its trump card in lobbying against an independent international investigation.

"Officials described it as a credible accountability mechanism, able to deliver justice and promote reconciliation. In reality it's flawed at every level: in mandate, composition and practice."

In a 69-page report, the human rights group has said,

"Amnesty International urges the international community not to be deceived that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission -- the latest in a long line of failed domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka -- will deliver justice, truth and reparations to the tens of thousands of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes committed during the conflict by both sides, particularly during its last bloody few months,"

Entitled “When Will They Get Justice?” the report called on the UN to establish a credible international, independent investigation into war crimes, calling it “crucial” to “protest the global principle of accountability”.

"All U.N. member states should fulfill their shared responsibility to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka by exercising universal jurisdiction."

Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International said,

We’re publishing this report now as a wake up call to UN member states that they must act on the … credible evidence of very serious crimes that happened at the end of the war and (the UN) recommended an independent international investigation”.

A previous UN panel report also called for an independent international investigation to take place on Sri Lanka's war crimes.

Amnesty's report comes amid increasing pressure on Sri Lanka, as the UN Human Rights Council is expected take up the issue in three-week meeting in Geneva starting Monday.

Based on eyewitness testimony, information from aid workers and transcripts from LLRC hearings, the report stated that the LLRC did not have the will to pursue serious allegations of crimes.

Amongst these were allegations of forced detention, disappearances, extrajudicial killings and widespread shelling of civilians.

"It (the government) has not attempted to identify government personnel alleged to be responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in the final stages of the armed conflict, let alone initiate steps necessary to ensure that justice is served," the report said.

"History demonstrates that Sri Lanka lacks the political will to address serious allegations of abuse or to end impunity."

Mr Zarifi also added,

"It is the latest in a long line of failed domestic inquiries. Impunity has been the rule rather than the exception, now exacerbated by a post-conflict triumphalism that rejects all responsibility for abuses carried out by government forces."

Amnesty International has previously reported on Sri Lanka’s commissions of inquiry, in a report entitled “Twenty years of make-believe”.

Amnesty's latest report concluded that an international investigation is the only way to bring justice “tens of thousands of victims of war crimes”.

The UN has a responsibility to investigate allegations of crimes under international law without delay, regardless of Sri Lanka’s domestic efforts. Investigations should be conducted independently and in accordance with international standards and should culminate in the criminal prosecution of individuals found responsible in full conformity with international standards for fair trial.

Amnesty International is calling for the UN to immediately establish an independent, international investigation. Such a mechanism is crucial for two reasons: (1) to protect the global principle of accountability for international crimes, and prevent the establishment of a negative precedent for other states that may emulate Sri Lanka’s attempt to flout international law so egregiously; and (2) to help the process of reconciliation inside Sri Lanka through findings issued by a neutral outside body free of perceptions of bias, that can establish the truth and provide justice for the crimes committed by all sides to the conflict, including the LTTE, government forces and their affiliates.”

The LLRC's final report, after repeated delays, is due out in November.

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