The government had requested the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and US State Department to allow it to conduct a domestic war crimes probe instead of setting up a hybrid court with international judges, Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said yesterday.
The government had handed over copies of the written request to the high commissions and embassies in Colombo to be sent to the heads of state of the 47-member states of the UNHRC, the Minister told The Island.
He said the new government had restored the independence of judiciary and demonstrated its intent to address human rights issues. It had changed the procedure of appointing judges to higher courts through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Thereby, it had given the courts and other judicial bodies freedom to act impartially without political influence. Hence, the government was of the opinion that a domestic mechanism comprising local judges without the participation of international judges would be able to probe the alleged war crimes during final phase of the battle against the LTTE, the minister said.
The UN Human Rights Council report recommended involving international experts in probing the alleged war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE.
Meanwhile, the SLFP Central Committee had resolved to appoint a special committee to decide the party’s position on the UNHRC report, SLFP General Secretary Agricultural Minister Duminda Dissanayake said.
The decision had been taken by the SLFP Central Committee that met on Friday at the President Maithripala Sirisena’s residence, the minister said.
The committee would seek the assistance of a team of intellectuals on the possible stance the party should take with regard to the UNHRC report and inform the SLFP Central Committee of its recommendations. The committee is scheduled to meet this week and to report back to the SLFP Central Committee within 14 days. Thereafter, the Central Committee would make the final decision with regard to its future course of action, Minister Dissanayake said.
The SLFP CC has decided that it will stand for the unitary status and sovereignty of the country and protect everyone who dedicated themselves to liberate the country from terrorism.
The SLFP decision to appoint a committee to decide its stand on the UNHRC report came against the backdrop of National Freedom Front Leader Wimal Weerawansa making a request to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to allocate a date next week to debate the report.
The NFF leader handed over a letter to the Speaker saying that the UNHRC in a report released on Sept 16 had condemned the Lankan security forces by levelling number of accusations against them. Weerawansa has said: “The UNHRC has also proposed to set up a hybrid court, a branch of the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in his address to the 30th Session of the UNHRC has favoured the establishment of such a mechanism. This indicated that there is already a consensus within the government ranks to set up a war crime tribunal. This is a serious issue. Such a court comprising international judges could be established in only colonies ruled by another nation. We propose that a branch of International Criminal Court should not be set up in Sri Lanka under the name of Hybrid court,” the motion seeking for the approval for the parliamentary debate.”
By Jayasuriya Udukumbura and Percy Kuruneru