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Sri Lankan justice has no place for ‘accountable amnesties’ - HRW

The proposal by a Sri Lankan presidential commission for “accountable amnesties” for those guilty of violating international humanitarian law is “not a real way forward” said James Ross, Legal and Policy Director at Human Rights Watch.

Mr Ross said the idea of “accountable amnesties” for such grave crimes was an oxymoron, as he criticised the commission’s recommendations of running contrary to an earlier UN Human Rights Council resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

“Were the Sri Lankan government to adopt this approach, a military commander or government official may be able to buy their way out of a criminal prosecution for summary killings, torture, and enforced disappearances by admitting their crimes to a non-judicial body and presumably not having to face evidence presented against them,” said Mr Ross.

“Sri Lanka is obligated to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes in violation of international law,” he added. 

“A slap on the wrist for grave crimes is not justice – even if it comes with public admissions of guilt. The thousands of victims of abuses and their families from all sides in Sri Lanka’s war should not be left out of the accountability process. All Sri Lankans need to see those responsible for atrocities appropriately punished.”

““Accountable amnesty” evokes all the seriousness of “jumbo shrimp” – it’s not a real way forward. Transitional justice in Sri Lanka needs to involve genuine trials, with the added expertise and protection offered by foreign judges, prosecutors, and investigators – and impose punishments that the fit the crime.”

See his full piece here.

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