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'Truth and reconciliation commission does not negate accountability in Sri Lanka' says UN human rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al-Hussain said a proposed truth and reconciliation commission will not negate the need for accountability and justice , as he reiterated calls for an accountability mechanism with “strong international involvement”.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, the UN human rights chief said:

“One needs to state that a truth and reconciliation commission, the existence of it were it to be set up, will not negate the need to have an accountability mechanism, to have justice done in the form of accountability and redress judicially.”

“On the basis of what we have seen, so massive have been the crimes, so many have been the families that have suffered that there needs to be judicial redress, there has to be accountability in the form of court cases that will punish the guilty... We are not talking about one or the other here.”

His comments came after Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera proposed to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week “a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence to be evolved in consultation with the relevant authorities of South Africa”.

On Thursday Mr Samaraweera said the government did not want “outside bodies” to do a criminal investigation into the mass atrocities detailed in the UN report, which was released yesterday.

The High Commissioner told the BBC however that “nothing short of a hybrid court would be sufficient”, adding there must be “heavy international involvement at all levels”.

“The density of the occurrences, the patterns in which the various killings took place, are again suggestive of organisation and planning and therefore there are grounds for believing that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed,” he added. “These were not sporadic ordinary crimes that occurred throughout the country, unconnected to policy. There seems to have been a policy, a design, at various levels of the state structure that led to this.”

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