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UN Special Rapporteur insists on importance of victim participation in Sri Lanka


File photo: UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non‐Recurrence Pablo de Greiff, who visited the island last week, in a meeting with Northern Provincial Council Chief Minisetr C. V. Wigneswaran last year.

UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff reiterated the importance of carrying out national consultations for an accountability mechanism that has victim participation, as he concluded a visit to the island last week.

Mr de Greiff, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence said "the international community – this mandate included—had insisted on the importance of carrying out national consultations, in the conviction that redressing massive human rights violations is best done with the participation of those whose rights were violated in the first place”.

Whilst in Sri Lanka the Special Rapporteur met with Government officials and also travelled to the North-East where he called on civil society organisations and victims groups.

“Statements by the President of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister, as well as several ministers, seemed to call into question the willingness to abide by commitments undertaken by Sri Lanka,” said Mr de Greiff, referring to recent comments by Sri Lanka’s leaders rejecting an international component to an accountability mechanism.

The Special Rapporteur said “discussion about the nationality of the judges, however, has displaced a discussion about the skill set that the investigation and the prosecution of these cases will require a similarly specialized set of competencies” noting that “these skills are typically not widely available in countries that have not gone through the corresponding judicial procedures, for they do not form part of the ordinary training of lawyers, but rather specialized skills that have slowly developed over time”.

He also referred to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s remarks that the tens of thousands of missing people across the North-East are “most probably dead”, stating “comments by high level Government officials about the fate of the disappeared also created consternation amongst family members of victims”.

“The paucity of information made public by the Government about the task force, its mandate, and the role of national consultations within an overall strategy for the adoption and the implementation of a transitional justice policy, creates uncertainty about the determination of the Government and about whether its different members are of one mind concerning this important issue,” he added.

His comments come as the Sri Lankan government announced a 'Special Task Force' to examine public opinion on the implementation of a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law.

The prevailing situation in the North-East was also a matter of concern, with the Special Rapporteur noting consultations “will be taking place under circumstances in which many victims in the North, particularly, and especially women, claim that they are still the subject of intrusive surveillance, and that their concerns about security are not completely assuaged”. All sectors of the government, including the security forces must guarantee that the consultations will proceed not only without interference from but with the support of all sectors of the state and the Government,” added Mr de Greiff.   

“What is expected is, on the one hand, for the Government to pay immediate attention to certain issues on which it can certainly act without delay,” he concluded stating there must be action on issue of the missing, land occupied by the armed forces and the adoption of victim assistance programmes to name a few.

The Sri Lankan government must also “engage in credible processes leading to the establishment of strong institutions capable of delivering in a sustainable way robust results over time in the areas of truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence,” he said.

“The Special Rapporteur reaffirms his conviction that this is a historic opportunity for Sri Lanka to address past issues that nevertheless impose significant burdens on the present and the future”.

See his full statement here.

Mr de Greiff also visited the island in April last year, and subsequently submitted a report on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council in September.

Also see:

Government 'lacks political will' to pursue justice – Tamil Civil Society Forum tells visiting UN Special Rapporteur (01 Apr 2015)

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