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No 'shortcuts' to reconciliation in Sri Lanka says UN official

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr Pablo de Greiff, said following his visit this month to Sri Lanka that the "creation of initiatives that satisfy legally binding rights to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence" were complementary elements of a reconcilialion policy, adding that there were "no 'shortcuts' to reconciliation".

Mr Grieff visited the island from March 30 to April 3 and travelled to the North-East, including Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Batticaloa.

In a statement released on Saturday, Mr Grieff pointed to the potential of Sri Lanka to build a sustainable peace, but added that "most of the work necessary to redress violations and abuses, however, is still to be done."

"While long-term comprehensive policies are designed with the appropriate consultations, it is urgent to guarantee the cessation of all violations, and implement victim-assistance programmes," he said.

Highlighting the failed domestic commissions of inquiry by successive government, Mr Grieff said that it had led to "a confidence gap".

"The accumulated result of these efforts has increased mistrust in the Government’s determination to genuinely redress those violations. At this critical juncture, the country cannot afford to simply reproduce an approach that is characterized by the proliferation of largely unrelated and inconsequential ‘ad hoc’ initiatives. Serious consideration needs to be given to establishing transitional justice mechanisms that contribute to building lasting institutions and capacities, and which allow for effective implementation."

Stressing the need for victims to be consulted when a mechanism of justice is formulated, Mr Grieff said that "this has not been the hallmark of past Sri Lankan efforts".

"Consultation with those affected by the violations is essential from a conceptual standpoint for rights cannot simply be foisted but need to be exercised. Citizens cannot be simply presented with ‘solutions’ in the design of which they were given no role."

Calling for state policy to be centred on human rights and a comprehensive redress to past crimes, Mr Grieff added:

"There are violations that we cannot simply expect others to forget. Redressing those violations is not a matter of personal recollection, but of fundamental, basic rights. Hence, the aim should be the articulation of a State policy, rather than a particular Government’s policy that might be abrogated once new authorities are in place. Being a matter of the promotion of basic rights, initiatives relating to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence should be designed and implemented in such a way that they place the notion of human rights at their core."

See full statement here.

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