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Gotabaya vows to reject UN resolution on accountability

Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary and frontrunner in next months’ presidential elections Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to reject a UN Human Rights Council resolution on accountability for mass atrocities, which the current government has co-sponsored.

“We will always work with the United Nations, but I can’t recognize what they have signed,” Rajapaksa told a news conference earlier today.

The resolution mandates a hybrid judicial mechanism with foreign judges and lawyers to prosecute those responsible for mass atrocities committed during the armed conflict. Rajapaksa, who was defence secretary during that final phase, oversaw military operations. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed, amidst shelling of hospitals, widespread sexual violence and the execution of those that surrendered which Rajapaksa is accused of personally ordering.

“We have already rejected that, as a party we have rejected that agreement and in public we have rejected that. ... On this issue, our policies and the present government policies are far apart,” he said. “We have to move forward, we have to forget about hanging on to old allegations and all that.”

"We’re an independent country, where we can follow [the law] without foreign-appointed people producing documents without even coming here,” he added.

His announcement comes just days after he vowed to free all Sri Lankan soldiers that he claimed had been imprisoned on “absurd charges” and pledged to bolster military intelligence on the island.

Last week, a Sri Lankan court acquitted four soldiers over the gang rape of a Tamil woman, after they had been found guilty and sentenced for the crime in 2015.