|Helena Kennedy: Investigate war crimes
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish an independent and international inquiry into alleged war crimes and past violations of human rights law in Sri Lanka as called for by the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a recently published report. IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said, ‘Since the end of the conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, there has been a systematic dismantling of checks and balances on executive power. In the absence of an independent judiciary, the IBAHRI has noted on multiple occasions the inability of the Sri Lankan legal system to provide redress for alleged human rights violations and war crimes.’
She added, ‘In light of this, the IBAHRI fully supports the recommendations put forward in the report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and strongly urges the UN Human Rights Council, to adopt these recommendations in the forthcoming resolution on Sri Lanka.’
The Report includes recommendations to the Sri Lankan Government and to the UNHRC, ahead of its 25th Session, 3–28 March 2014, in Geneva, Switzerland, where it is due to consider a resolution on Sri Lanka.
From the advanced edited version of the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, entitled Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and dated 24 February 2014, Ms Pillay recommends that the UNHRC ‘establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and monitor any domestic accountability processes.’ Her key recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka include:
- ‘arrest, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks on minority communities, media and human rights defenders, and ensure protection of victims’;
- ‘undertake independent and credible criminal and forensic investigations with international assistance into all alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including recently discovered mass graves’; and
- ‘establish a truth-seeking mechanism and national reparations policy in accordance with international standards as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice.’
International Bar Association Executive Director Mark Ellis commented, ‘It is noted with immense regret that there has not been a single successful prosecution for the numerous attacks against minorities, journalists and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka in relation to the country’s civil war.’ He added, ‘In order for there to be sustainable peace in Sri Lanka, it is essential to hold proper investigations and prosecutions into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations of the past committed by both sides, as well as to establish an independent and effective justice system that properly protects against, and provides reparation for any future violations. We are hopeful that the UNHRC debate will take the first step in establishing accountability.’
The IBAHRI, in collaboration with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), produced a briefing note on key points regarding the incapacity of Sri Lanka’s domestic justice system to provide redress for war crimes and human rights violations, and the need to establish an international accountability mechanism.
Click here to download the IBAHRI/ICJ briefing note – English language version.
Click here to download the IBAHRI/ICJ briefing note – Spanish language version.
Click here to download the IBAHRI/ICJ briefing note – Arabic language version.
The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.