The Sunday Leader

Domestic Vs International Probe: Battle Begins

Mangala to meet Zeid, brief UNHRC

By Easwaran Rutnam

Foreign Minister
Mangala Samaraweera, Justice Minister
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Sri Lanka: The Search for Justice director Callum Macrea

Sri Lanka’s attempt to seek support for a domestic mechanism to address allegations over the war shifts to Geneva this week as the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) begins with Sri Lanka on the agenda.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe were due to arrive in Geneva today to begin meetings with member states of the UNHRC to seek support for the domestic mechanism.

The Sri Lankan delegation will also have talks with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein while the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister will also make a statement at the Council this week during the General Debate.

The UNHRC will on September 30 consider the report of the High Commissioner on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka followed by a discussion.

Ahead of the release of the report, heavy lobbying will take place in Geneva both for and against a domestic mechanism to address the concerns and allegations which are expected to be made public in the report.

Sri Lanka’s attempt to obtain support for a domestic mechanism will face still resistance from a Tamil National Alliance Northern Provincial Council delegation and producer of the controversial No-Fire Zone film on the war Callum Macrea.

The Northern Provincial Council and Macrea feel an international judicial process and not a domestic mechanism should be used to deal with alleged war crimes said to have been committed in Sri Lanka.

Macrea, who will be in Geneva this week, told The Sunday Leader that an accountability process is necessary, so that truth and justice can be achieved.

He says it is also clear that the best way of achieving that is through an impartial international accountability process that can examine all crimes committed by all parties to this conflict.

“The Government of Sri Lanka, if it is genuinely committed to truth and justice, has nothing to fear of such a process. Only the guilty fear the truth,” he said.

The team behind the controversial Emmy-nominated feature documentary No Fire Zone – credited with playing a key role in convincing the international community to take action over the Sri Lankan massacres of 2009, in which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died – had on Thursday launched a new short film, Sri Lanka: The Search For Justice.

The hard-hitting half-hour long video coincides with the long anticipated publication of the international war crimes investigation into the massacres, ordered by the United Nations Human Rights Council 18 months ago in Geneva. It will be made live to an international public today – initially in English and Spanish, with translations in Tamil, Sinhala, French, and Hindi to follow online in the next few days.

Under the campaign slogan, #LetThem Be Heard, the new film – containing graphic video evidence of the war crimes and massacres – is addressed to members of the Human Rights Council. It calls on the international community to listen to the voices of the Tamil victims who are calling for an international accountability process to ensure truth and justice.

Sri Lanka: The Search For Justice was taken on an international preview tour through five Latin American countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Mexico – last week by No Fire Zone director Callum Macrae. He then travelled to the United States to screen the film and meet with politicians, government officials, and human rights activists in both New York and Washington. From there, he is taking the film to Geneva this week, where it will be screened in the Palais de Nation, the Human Rights Council’s headquarters.

A resolution calling for such a process was recently passed unanimously by the Northern Provincial Council. It has been echoed by Tamil civil society groups, by public demonstrations, and a public signature campaign, which is gaining considerable support despite reports of harassment by security forces.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will open the 30th session of the UNHRC tomorrow, delivering a statement on the activities of his Office since the last session and will mention his intention to release the report on Sri Lanka later this month.

The High Commissioner’s office confirmed last week that the report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka will be released as scheduled.

“Wednesday, September 30 will commence with an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic and the Independent Expert on Somalia. A presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka will then take place to be followed by a discussion,” the High Commissioner’s office said.

On behalf of a core group, the US will offer a resolution during the Geneva session on Sri Lanka to follow up on the new Sri Lankan government’s efforts to promote reconciliation and accountability and on the release of the report of the investigation requested in HRC resolution 25/1.

The US is working collaboratively with the new Government of Sri Lanka and key stakeholders on the text of the resolution.

The first informal meeting to discuss the resolution has been scheduled for September 17 in Geneva.

Foreign Minister Samaraweera had told diplomats based in Colombo last month that Sri Lanka needs time to ensure full reconciliation takes place.

“It is an essential process for our country involving the broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations, and non-recurrence. It also involves the important element of consultations to ensure ownership of processes, guarantee long-term sustainability and ensure that the deep grievances of all communities and within communities are addressed. Therefore, the mechanisms that we aim to set up and the processes that we aim to set in place will have to be evolved through wide consultations,” the Foreign Minister had said.

The US, which is backing the new government, agrees. The US is putting all its weight behind Sri Lanka for the domestic mechanism, and it is likely that a majority of the countries, if not all, in the UNHRC will back Sri Lanka. The current UNHRC membership with voting rights includes China, France, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, the United States of America and the UK.

The government is confident of obtaining support in Geneva at the UNHRC.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that the international community had placed its faith on the new government following the presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Minister said that while in Geneva, they will look to work on the proposed resolution seeking support for a domestic investigation on incidents related to the war.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which is also part of the national government, has agreed on the proposed domestic mechanism.

This will see most political parties in parliament taking the position that an international judicial process will not be acceptable to Sri Lanka.

5 Comments for “Domestic Vs International Probe: Battle Begins”

  1. raj

    Sampanthan and Mavi Senathi have been trapped and they don’t have any option but be yes man. Otherwise, there will be a consequences. Opposition post is a trap to shut down Sampanthan and Mavai’s mouth. Only God can save Tamils (Thanthai selva said). Now who can save Tamils?

    • Sellam

      Nobody can save the defeated Tamils. The Tamil leadership is playing double game particularly Sambanthan Trio (Sambanthan, Senathirajah and Sumanthiran. The Tamil people have to shelve them soon. Senathirajah is self promoting devil not interested in the Tamil’s welfare. Sambanthan canot do anything without Sumanthiran . It is a great pity why the people voted for the TNA. The Tamil people must have abstained from voting for the simple reason they are not part of the Sri Lankan governance.

  2. Marty

    It is very remarquable, that until 2009 to now, NO MASSGRAVE was found with
    tens of thousands of tamil victims, which could proof any genocidal tendencies,
    during the final stages of this tamil uprising. War is something different, where of you folks of SriLanka do not have any idea.
    One massgrave found at mannar, is dated to the period, when this full area was
    completely controlled by LTTE and the other one in mannar is supposed to come form the JVP uprising in the late 1980′s. Where are the massgraves at Velaimulivaikal, there is not even ONE!
    It is just funny that the UNHCR council do not reflect the ongoing human rights crimes happening today. No, it is probably more reasonable to dig into the past.
    The UNO, also UNHCR, fails completely, not able to take legal actions to the real penetrators of human rights!
    The Tamils do not call for justice, NO they call for revenge only, using the international community to fulfill their diaspora aspirations.

  3. gamarala

    At the very least, international and UN observers should be present, at any proposed local probe, which should have judges from all three major ethnic groups.
    Else, there will be no credibility at all.

  4. raj

    At UN, the foreign Minister of Sri Lanka mentioned about appointing Sampanthan as the opposition leader of Sri Lanka. It proves what motivates the government to appointment Sampanthan as the opposition leader. Once their need is over, Sampanthan will be nothing to the government.

    Here is what he said:

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