Oct 13, 2017

Sri Lanka "not bound by” UN expert recommendations

Sri Lanka has announced its intention of not honouring  international commitments on accountability, shattering hopes of tens of thousands of victims who believe that UN intervention would help deliver justice.

At the commencement of a visit by the UN top official on war crimes, the country's foreign ministry, in an apparent move to please Sinhala nationalist forces who vehemently deny the accountability of Sri Lanka armed forces, announced that any recommendations made will be implemented at the discretion of the government.

UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, Pablo de Greiff arrived in Sri Lanka on a two week fact finding mission.

This is his second visit in two years.

Transitional justice

He is expected to meet representatives of Tamil war victims in the north in an ongoing protest for more than seven months against justice denied for the last eight years.

The UN announced that the visiting expert will examine the progress made in redressing the legacies of massive past violations and abuses including those that resulted from a conflict that spanned more than 25 years.

In 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka committed itself to designing and implementing a comprehensive transitional justice strategy.

“My visit aims to review the progress made thus far, to identify obstacles and bottlenecks in the implementation of the transitional justice and reform process, and to discuss opportunities with the Government and Sri Lankan society to overcome these,” said SR de Greiff.

However, on the same day he arrived by invitation, the foreign ministry under a close associate of the prime minister has brushed aside his intentions.

“Governments are not bound by the advice or recommendations of Special Rapporteurs, but can avail of the expert knowledge and experience of Special Rapporteurs who are available to Governments as a resource,” it said in a statement on October 11.

“Their advice and expertise can be obtained by countries in a manner that would benefit institutional capacity building, policy formulation, and policy reform, training needs etc., as a Government may consider necessary.”

Proposed “immediate action”

Following his first visit in 2015, SR de Greiff reported to the UN rights body that Sri Lanka should take immediate action to demonstrate its commitment to redressing past violations.

He had singled out the failure of numerous domestic mechanisms in delivering justice to victims.

"The solution to this dilemma should not undercut the conditions on which both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of transitional justice measures rest," he added.

(By Kithsiri Wijesinghe –