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Sri Lanka to send war crimes denier to Geneva - ITJP, JDS

The International Truth and Justice Project, and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka yesterday criticised Sri Lanka's decision to send the former minister Mahinda Samarasinghe as part of a delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Sri Lanka is sending a Minister to represent its Government in Geneva who has systematically denied war crimes, threatened journalists and allegedly intimidated a father whose child was killed. Media reports say Mahinda Samarasinghe is part of a three-man delegation despatched to the Human Rights Council for the current session," ITJP and JDS said in a statement. 

“The Minister’s job is to convince member states that Sri Lanka does intend to implement its 2015 promises to the international community regarding accountability for alleged war crimes. How can any interlocutor take him  seriously in this role when he continues to deny there’s even a problem to fix,” said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. 

Read full statement here

Samarasinghe was chosen by the Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena to be part of the three member delegation instructed to seek a withdrawal from the co-sponsored resolution, by arguing that the country should be left to sort out its own problems.

The delegation, which also includes former Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama and the new Northern Province Governor Suren Raghavan, is being sent despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreeing to co-sponsor a roll-over of the original resolution 30/1 which called for accountability and justice through a hybrid mechanism.

UN resolution 30/1 called for a hybrid mechanism to credibly investigate and provide accountability for mass atrocities committed during the final stages of the armed conflict. It was due to be debated at this UNHRC session in Geneva following a two year extension granted in 2017.

The Sri Lankan president and prime minister have repeatedly rejected calls for justice and accountability, instead reassuring Sinhala voters that military personnel would not face prosecution by international judges. 

Last year, reiterating his rejection of war crimes allegations, Sirisena said the former foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera had been sacked for his role in agreeing to the co-sponsoring of the resolution. 

Sri Lanka has not been accused of committing any ‘international war crimes’ said Sirisena, adding that he will never allow the participation of foreign judges in the mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights violations."

“Therefore I told them not to send foreign judges to my country. There will be no international war tribunals or electric chairs,” he added. 

“Some people are incorrectly defining that we have been accused of international war crimes. At no point has the Human Rights Council said that we have committed international war crimes. There is clearly no such thing.” 

Read more: Sri Lanka not accused of war crimes says president, Mangala sacked as FM for cosponsoring resolution

In an alarmingly candid statement published this week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would be co-sponsoring a roll over resolution at the UN Human Rights Council as "this strategy will prevent international war crimes allegations being continuously leveled against Sri Lankans through strengthened ownership of the implementation process."

Read more: Sri Lanka admits strategy to 'prevent international war crimes allegations being continuously leveled'