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Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada calls for universal jurisdiction on Sri Lanka

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) called on members of the international community to exercise universal jurisdiction “to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka accountable,” in a statement delivered at the UN Human Rights Council today.

Delivering the statement, Canadian lawyer and research director at the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, Dharsha Jegatheeswaran echoed the findings of a recent UN report that there has been “virtually no progress towards investigating or prosecuting atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka”.

“Instead, the Sri Lankan government rejects any form of hybrid court and permits public stoking of Sinhala nationalist fears of international accountability processes,” she added.

Noting that “significant international involvement” was needed, Jegatheeswaran also added, “Sri Lanka’s domestic legal system is plagued with systemic obstacles to justice, including the politicization of the Attorney General’s department, a judiciary that is deferential to the military, and lack of protections for witnesses”.

Sri Lanka has also failed on “basic confidence-building measures with Tamil victims to address truth and accountability,” she added, highlighting the protests of the families of the disappeared across the North-East.

Jegatheeswaran concluded her statement by saying,

“LRWC reiterates the High Commissioner’s recommendations and emphasizes the need for Member States to exercise universal jurisdiction to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka accountable. Only accountability and justice can end the culture of impunity in Sri Lanka that has led to recurrent conflict over the last 70 years.”

See the full text of her address here.