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Referring Sri Lanka to ICC is ‘fully warranted’ says ICJ

The Sri Lankan government’s failure to establish an accountability mechanism for violations of International law means that referral to the International Criminal Court or the creation of another international mechanism “would be fully warranted," said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council last week.

“Almost ten years after Sri Lanka emerged from a period of conflict and massive human rights violations, the Government of Sri Lanka still has largely failed to implement its human rights obligations and commitments as reflected in Resolution 30/1,” said the ICJ in its submission.

It went on to add:

“The ICJ considers that the gravity and character of the crimes under international law committed in Sri Lanka, and the failure of the Government of Sri Lanka to meet its obligations and commitments to ensure justice for such crimes including as provided for in resolution 30/1, means that referral to the International Criminal Court or the creation of another international mechanism to facilitate criminal accountability would be fully warranted.”

In its full submission to the council, the ICJ said “the Sri Lankan justice system has for decades systematically failed to respond independently, impartially and effectively to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by security forces”. 

There also remains a “profound lack of trust in the domestic system from the Tamil community, arising from a perception that domestic courts have an “ethnic bias”,” it added. 

“Establishment of an international judicial mechanism is particularly urgent for women in conflict affected areas,” it added. “Especially those in the Northern Province who still live in a highly militarized environment and are compelled to live among their perpetrators --members of the military who have been accused of war crimes including rape and other forms of sexual violence.”

“There have been reports of sexual harassment and demands for sexual bribery by military personnel, even after the war. This vulnerability to violence, coercion and harassment impacts other aspects of their lives including their freedom of movement and to pursue a means of living. These circumstances hold back women from pursuing prosecution against perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence for fear of reprisal and stigma.”

See the full text of the ICJ submission here.

Several calls for referring Sri Lanka to the ICC have been made, from mothers of the disappeared in the North-East who have held numerous demonstrations calling for a referral, to Tamils across the diaspora with over 18,000 British residents signing a petition with that demand.

Though almost a decade has passed since the armed conflict ended, Sri Lanka is yet to set up an accountability mechanism to account for the crimes committed during a massive military offensive which massacred tens of thousands of Tamils.