Exiled Tamil victims who survived the final stages of the armed conflict on the island have called for international judges to participate in an accountability mechanism for mass atrocities, in a new report by the International Truth and Justice Project.
Launched on Friday, the report clearly identified the top priority of the victims as criminal accountability, including “the prosecution of those who were in positions of superior and command responsibility”.
The victims stated they would testify by video to a special court in Sri Lanka only if international judges were involved and their identities protected.
“These findings have huge implications for the design of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka,” said Yasmin Sooka. “It’s important that thousands of Tamils who’ve fled Sri Lanka have a voice, especially as some are the only known surviving witnesses to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
“Donors, the international community and the Government of Sri Lanka must take note and facilitate the participation of these victims,” she said in a press release.
The ITJP study, based on interviews with75 Tamil victims in four different European countries, also laid out a list of recommendations, including a range of confidence building measures.
“A common thread in all interviews conducted is the total lack of trust in the State and its institutions,” it said. “This distrust and betrayal has been exacerbated over the years by the ongoing violations and the continued military occupation of the North and East of Sri Lanka.”
Speaking on recent measures taken by the Sri Lankan government, Ms Sooka said,
“The recent publication of Sri Lanka’s law establishing an Office of Missing Persons without input from the families of victims and civil society is contrary to the spirit of the UN resolution and the normative framework for participation and consultation”.
“The Sri Lankan law is problematic as it does not deal with the criminal aspects of enforced disappearances,” she added.
“What is often under-reported is the extent of violations inflicted on the entire family, be it torture, reprisals or extortion. Worryingly several people reported that their families were still being harassed or threatened after the change of government in Sri Lanka in 2015 and this cannot create a conducive atmosphere in which to conduct national consultations.”
See the full text of the report here.