The Sunday Leader

Outrage As President Insists No Foreign Judges

by Easwaran Rutnam

UNHRC sessions in progress

A public statement made last weekend by President Maithripala Sirisena that he will not agree to inviting foreign judges to get involved in the accountability process related to the war, has drawn sharp criticism.

The criticism stems from the fact that the need to have foreign judges is part of the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last year, which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the Law Conference in Wadduwa last weekend, the President said that he has faith in the local judiciary and he feels all that needs to be done is to strengthen the judiciary and ensure it is independent.

International human rights groups have been calling on Sri Lanka to invite foreign judges to ensure the domestic process to investigate human rights abuses related to the war are credible.

“If there is a need to conduct a judicial process after investigating human rights abuses, I will not agree to invite foreign judges to come to Sri Lanka and be involved in that process,” he said.

The President had made a similar comment a few weeks ago to the international media and that created a storm with human rights groups insisting that he reconsider his stand.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), which pushed for the Resolution on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC and backed international participation in the local judicial process, reiterated the need to have foreign judges.


HRC Resolution

“The HRC resolution called for the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors because of a history of failure by local judges and prosecutors, particularly in dealing with sensitive war crimes allegations.

The President’s repeated statements refusing to allow foreign participation in an accountability mechanism contradicts the government’s official position at the HRC, calling into question their sincerity and trustworthiness,” Brad Adams, Director Asia at HRW told The Sunday Leader.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which backed the government at the Presidential elections last year, also expressed disappointment at the stand taken by the President.

Former Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran said that the Tamils will not accept a purely domestic accountability process.

He said that the government clearly agreed with the clause in the UN Resolution which proposes the participation of foreign judges.

The clause in the Resolution on the participation of foreign judges states the UNHRC takes note with appreciation of the government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators.


Importance of foreign judges

Premachandran said that the importance of having foreign judges was raised in Parliament by TNA member M. A. Sumanthiran.

“The President may have faith in local judges but Tamils don’t. He must invite foreign judges for the process to have credibility,” Premachandran said.

Premachandran also said that there can be no justice for the Tamils who were victims of the war if the accountability process does not have the participation of foreign judges. Last week the United Nations (UN) also reiterated calls for a credible investigation on incidents related to the war in Sri Lanka.

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General said that the UN has made clear what the guidelines for what a credible investigation will entail.

He said this in response to a question posed on the comment made by President Maithripala Sirisena that he will not invite foreign judges to be involved in the judicial process after investigating incidents related to the war.

“The Human Rights Council can evaluate for themselves how it’s going, but we want to make sure there is a credible investigation into this. And we have made clear what our guidelines are for what a credible investigation will entail and so we will continue to be in dialog to make sure it happens,” he said.

Last month Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had said that he is willing to consider international participation when investigating incidents related to the war.

“I think it is only fair that the victims of the war would want some form of guarantee that the new courts will deliver justice and accountability in a fair manner, and for that we are willing to consider the participation of international actors,” Reuters had quoted Samaraweera as saying at a Washington think tank last month.

Two key players involved in the drafting of the UN Resolution on Sri Lanka, the US and UK had also emphasized on the need to have foreign judges.

The US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Keith Harper, said recently that the accountability process can be credible only if foreign judges are involved.


Process to ensure credibility

The British government also affirmed the need for foreign judges in Sri Lanka’s domestic accountability process to ensure its credibility. UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth office Hugo Swire, in a letter to a group of British Parliamentarians last October, had said that the resolution adopted at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) notes the importance of the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges and defence lawyers in Sri Lanka’s judicial accountability process.

Writing to the UK MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils and on Sri Lanka, Swire said that the resolution has a clear call for Sri Lanka to reform its domestic law to ensure that it can effectively implement its own commitments, including by allowing for the trial and punishment of those most responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and requests continued international assessment of Sri Lanka’s progress through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UNHRC.


13 Comments for “Outrage As President Insists No Foreign Judges”

  1. There were foreign Judges who had broken the law, which include in Malaysia, even the USA and especially in Japan where six Judges including the Tokyo high Court Judge Muraki was impeached and incarcerated for sex crimes with under age girls. Definitley not Japanese judges

    • Kalu Albet

      That’s the idea sir, we want corrupt judges to lock up MR for life. That is the only way we UNP/ Ranil remain in power for ever. As long as Rajapasa clan alive and well its an uphill battle for us. Hence we must look for ways to get rid of all Rajapaksas, attack them with whatever you can lay your hands on. With Rajapaksa in vicinity we’ll have difficulty giving Illarm / Federalism to our Tamil brothers.

  2. kumaran

    This Administration is walking a ‘tight-rope’ with the MR faction creating doubts in the minds of the Southern Extremists that the nation will be split, that the “war heroes will be condemned etc. All we need now is the Northern Extremists to raise their strident cry to the Western politician who greatly depend on their vote to upset this slick situation. Go ahead, do so and see what will happen, if in the event MR and Co. gets back in.

  3. Sylvia Haik

    Without the involvement of the foreign judges, any decision reached would be deemed rigged by one side or the other. The present leaders have got nothing to hide unlike the previous regime. Unless they want to appease the Rajapakses, I don’t see the rejection of foreign judges as wise as independence would seem unnencessarily compromised.

  4. punchinilame

    The Inquiry/investigation has to satisfy both parties, the State and Victims. When
    it has been proved that the Justice system is slack, even under this GG and the
    matter involves International War Crimes, any local set-up will not guarantee
    Justice, unless expert Judges, even ex-Commonwealth participate.

    If MS rushes for foreign technical experts for Power failures, he must do so for
    War crimes too, where foreign arms and supplies were used by both sides!

  5. daggy

    There are no Judges appointed to inquire into crimes committed by the militaries of the Western World. Instead, there are hored of NGOs appointed to whitewash their crimes.

    Go… bomb… kill multitudes of innocent civillians in Afganistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and then make those killings look right by issuing a statement saying a “Taliban”, Al-Quaeda or ISIL” leader was taken out or killed and such statements justifies and whiwash innocent civillian deaths.
    Yet, there is no end to these wars nor deaths despite it taking place day in and day out.

    On the other hand, GOSL has ended the militant war and has been the victors against who waged the way.
    So the victors must take it all……………

    The UN could not stand by its own findings on the death toll but instead resorted to one darussman for a report. WHO PROVIDED THE INFORMATION TO DARUSSMANN TO INFLATE FIGURES OF WAR DEAD?
    What action the UN taken against darussman OR has he been compensated for fabricating evidence? DISGUSTING TO SAY THE LEASE.

    WHAT TRIAL OR PUNISMENT, winner takes it all. move on guys
    \Damn the Double standards.
    Northern terrorists have turned out to be cry babies.

  6. Hi Reader

    Srisena was the acting defence minister, I believe, during the final stage of the war in 2009. How can one expects a top commanding officer agrees to an independent commission to investigate crimes committed by his army?

    There was a news that his name was in the original OHCHR’s report. By cosponsoring the resolution SLG was successfully able to remove his name among others.

    Please Srisena come CLEAN.

    Native Lankan

  7. Eng.M.V.R.Perera

    Our constitution does not permit foreign judges and also we have not sign any agreement where our citizens can be hauled before international courts on war crimes as such the President is right

  8. Sothi Upali

    Foreign judges cannot be trusted. If they are legitimate, Bush, Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Netanyahu, Robert Mugabe, Saudi Price should be on death row.

  9. Concerned Citizen

    Foreign Judges are not reliable and in fact could be biased or deliberate distortionists, working to a hostile agenda.
    This has been demonstrated by the poor quality, biased reports prepared by UNHRC appointed advices and investigators, such as Dharusman, Yasmin Sooka, Navi Pillai, Ban Ki Moon, etc These reports violate basic standards stipulated for such reports, which have not even indicated who their primary sources were, probably as the sources could be Tiger terrorists

    Therefore, in this instance The President’s stance is 100% correct. However, will he really have the backbone to adhere to his own decision, and not appoint foreign ‘judges’ to hear Sri Lankan matters and thus safeguard the country’s sovereignty and the pride of the well established Sri Lankan judicial system.

    In fact, we could learn from David Cameron’s stance, and refuse to allow any investigation of Soldiers who did their job to protect the nation.

  10. Usha Sriskandarajah

    World got fooled, not Tamils – for Tamils have been fooled countless times with broken promise that they’ve become wiser to ‪‎Sri Lanka’s lies – when will the UN Human Rights Council and the ‪‎International Community‬ wake up to Sri Lanka’s lies? How many more resolutions and concessions would Sri Lanka get before they’re found out for who they really are! That they’re Deceptive and untrustworthy to the core! The independent Monitoring and Accountability Panel (MAP) made up of eminent International Legal Luminaries are watching – Sri Lanka will be exposed!

  11. srivan

    Of course, he would say that wouldn’t he?!

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