The Sunday Leader

Decisive Year Ahead For Accountability Process

by Easwaran Rutnam

UNHCR – for human rights

The year 2016 will be a decisive year for the accountability process in Sri Lanka as the government needs to show progress by June. Sri Lanka has already been listed on the agenda for the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by when the government will be expected to show progress in meeting its commitments in the consensus resolution adopted at the Council last October.

The resolution adopted in October calls on the Office of the High Commissioner for human rights to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights, and to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session, and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its thirty-fourth session.

Outgoing President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Joachim Ruecker said last week that through the consensus resolution on Sri Lanka a road map was provided for the long needed peace and reconciliation process.

However, many feel the process is rather slow and may not meet its target come June 2016.

Among them are some political parties and civil society in the North who last week formed a new organisation to push for the rights of the Tamils to be addressed,

Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran was appointed as the head of a new organisation comprising Tamil politicians and civil society members.

The ‘Tamil People’s Conference’ met in Jaffna and discussed its future goals and also decided to form sub-committees which will handle various tasks.

The main committee in the ‘Tamil People’s Conference’ includes Tamil National Alliance members Dharmalingham Sidharthan and Suresh Premachandran and Tamil National People’s Front leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.

The sub-committees appointed by the ‘Tamil People’s Conference’ have been given a time frame during which it will submit proposals to address issues faced by the Tamils.

The new organisation will also have a close eye on the implementation process of the resolution adopted on Sri Lanka by the UN Human Rights Council.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe

The resolution, among other points, notes the importance of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past, incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including, inter alia, individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, the vetting of public employees and officials, or an appropriately conceived combination thereof, in order to, inter alia, ensure accountability, serve justice, provide victims with remedies, promote healing and reconciliation, establish independent oversight of the security system, restore confidence in the institutions of the State and promote the rule of law in accordance with international human rights law with a view to preventing the recurrence of violations and abuses, and welcoming in this regard the expressed commitment of the Government to ensure dialogue and wide consultations with all stakeholders.

It also noted that mechanisms to redress past abuses and violations work best when they are independent, impartial and transparent; are led by individuals known for displaying the highest degree of professionalism, integrity and impartiality; utilise consultative and participatory methods that include the views of all relevant  stakeholders, including, but not limited to, victims, women, youth, representatives of various religions, ethnicities and geographic locations, as well as marginalised groups; and are designed and implemented on the basis of expert advice from those with relevant international and domestic experience.

The government feels the process to meet its commitments, are on track and more forward movement is expected next month.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told a group of soldiers at an event last week that with the end of the war, efforts must be taken to heal the wounds of the conflict.

The Prime Minister also said that the government will ensure the name of the military is protected as the country moves forward to heal the wounds of the past.

“When you have a wound it is not easy to heal,” he said.

The resolution at the Human Rights Council encouraged the government of Sri Lanka to introduce effective security sector reforms as part of its transitional justice process, which will help to enhance the reputation and professionalism of the military and include ensuring that no scope exists for retention in or recruitment into the security forces of anyone credibly implicated through a fair administrative process in serious crimes involving human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law, including members of the security and intelligence units; and also to increase training and incentives focused on the promotion and protection of human rights of all Sri Lankans.

The political prisoner issue is also bound to have a negative impact on the reconciliation process if not addressed soon.

The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) says it is deeply concerned that the government has failed to uphold its promise to Tamil political prisoners that it would review their cases and ensure their release by December 15, 2015.

CTC says it is dedicated to working towards the fulfillment of the resolution on promoting accountability and reconciliation co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan government at the most recent Human Rights Council session, and appreciates the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to do the same. However, in order for any real progress to be made, CTC says the government must first take meaningful confidence-building measures to address on going human rights violations in order to gain the trust of the Tamil people. One such urgently needed confidence-building measure is to address the situation of Tamil political prisoners.

The number of Tamil political prisoners, even by the most conservative estimate, is at least 200, some of whom have been detained without charge for more than a decade.

In mid-November, responding to an ongoing hunger strike by Tamil political prisoners and a hartal organised by Tamil political parties including the Tamil National Alliance, the government promised political prisoners that their cases would at least be reviewed by December 15. While the government has made certain statements regarding political prisoners in the interim, December 15 has come and gone and the Sri Lankan Government has yet to follow through on this promise in any concrete manner or present a clear plan on how they intend to address this issue.

“It is critical that the Sri Lankan government takes legitimate action on this issue if they are to build confidence in the Tamil community towards real accountability and reconciliation,” Raj Thavaratnasingham, President of the Canadian Tamil Congress said.

CTC accordingly called on the government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability and reconciliation by either releasing or bringing to trial all Tamil political prisoners without delay.



1 Comment for “Decisive Year Ahead For Accountability Process”

  1. the prime minister please maintain the good govern of the2016 government all communities must live peaceful live. human rights, languages culture, religion. please fulfill the request by the human rights. Geneva. the head of Geneva will visit srilanka on feberary 2016, former regime lost creditable in srilanka.

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