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Sri Lankan government reiterates no foreign judges for war crimes inquiry

Sri Lanka's Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella reassured parliament on Friday that foreign judges would not hear cases within a war crimes inquiry, Colombo papers reported. 

Stressing that no 'war heroes' would be put before foreign judges, Kiriella said, “we were pushed towards involving international experts in a probe on the war because of the mistakes made by the previous government such as moving towards impeaching former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike and arresting former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka."

“The advice sought from the international experts will be confined to technical assistance. No foreign expert will be allowed to hear the case,” Kiriella added, responding to a question by a fellow MP, Dayasiri Jayasekera, on why Sri Lanka is working with international experts after claiming that Sri Lanka has an independent judicial system. 

“It is you who boast saying the legal system in this country is independent but you try to get international judges involved in the probe under the UNHRC resolution,” Jayasekera said. 

UPFA MP Shehan Semasinghe asked why the government wanted to continue with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1, when the USA which co-sponsored the resolution has withdrawn. 

Kiriella responded stating, "Sri Lanka had prepared a new resolution which is more favourable than what was in the past years."

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His comments come as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said "virtually no progress" had been made on war crimes investigations as detailed in the original resolution 30/1, which called for a hybrid court with international judges to investigate war crimes. 

Read more: 'Virtually no progress' in Sri Lanka on war crimes investigations says UN human rights chief's office

In candid statement published last week the Sri Lankan foreign affairs ministry said it would co-sponsor a roll-over resolution but admitted it would be doing so 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'

The ministry's remarks were refuted by the president however, who has sent three representatives to Geneva in order to seek a withdrawal from the resolution. 

The Sri Lankan government's sincerity in implementation has been widely questioned by Tamil organisations and human rights groups worldwide, as well as the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who have condemned the lack of meaningful progress on key concerns. 

Pointing to Colombo's attempt to further delay the implementation of the co-sponsored UN Resolution 30/1 by talking of a 'truth and reconciliation commission' just days before the UN Human Rights Council was due to convene and review the resolution, Pillay said, “the key promises of justice and accountability are missing in the Prime Minister’s message."

"I am disappointed to learn that on the eve of the interactive dialogue on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’(OHCHR) report on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council, the Government of Sri Lanka is resorting to yet another delaying tactic to escape......implementation of Resolution 30/1,” said Pillay. 

Read more: Former UN Human Rights Chief slams Sri Lanka's 'delaying tactic'