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PEARL calls for international justice following pardon of soldier convicted of massacre

The pardoning of a Sri Lankan soldier found guilty of massacring Tamil civilians has proven the necessity for an international justice mechanism, said PEARL, the US-based advocacy group.

The soldier, Sunil Rathnayake’s guilt “is undisputed”, the organisation said in a statement on Friday. “Several other credible suspects were not even charged, in one of many examples of the domestic justice system’s failure to effectively investigate and prosecute crimes against Tamils.”

“This development is disappointing, but not surprising. Even on the rare occasion that Sri Lanka takes action against its forces for atrocities, the chances of a conviction are even rarer. In this case, the conviction was also rendered meaningless. His conviction coincided with a push by the then-new Sirisena government to convince the international community that it could domestically investigate and prosecute allegations of atrocity crimes. However, most alleged perpetrators remained free and this one conviction became a fig leaf for the Sri Lankan state to deny its systemic impunity for human rights violations against Tamils.”

“This massacre is one of many committed by security forces against Tamil civilians. Virtually all of them remain unpunished. Sri Lanka has repeatedly demonstrated its utter lack of political will to serve justice for atrocity crimes against Tamils. The fact that the government is rolling back on convictions is testament to the need for international justice and accountability for crimes in Sri Lanka. PEARL urges the establishment of an ad-hoc international tribunal or for the UN Security Council to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court. And because the state has been involved in human rights violations since independence, PEARL calls on UN Member States to bring and support a case against Sri Lanka at the International Court of Justice. International mechanisms remain the only means of ensuring justice and fair outcomes for the victim-survivor community.”

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