COLOMBO: The UN appears to be more than willing to accommodate the concerns of the Sri Lankan government in regard to fulfilling the commitments that the latter had made to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in September-October last year.
The recent statements of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, indicate an awareness of the difficulties faced by Colombo in implementing the October 1, 2015 UNHRC resolution which it had co-sponsored.
Zeid said on February 9 at the end of his four-day visit to Lanka, that the Lankan government has a “preference” in regard to the Judicial Mechanism (that it should have no foreign judges) and that the government is looking at “options within that preference”. Significantly, Zeid did not say that he was disappointed that the government was not in favor of appointing foreign judges. All that he said was that the victims of war should feel that the mechanism will render justice.
Zeid also noted that extremists “from both sides” (Sinhalese and Tamil) are trying to sabotage the government’s efforts to bring about reconciliation, and said that voice of the moderates must prevail over that of the extremists.
In his report submitted to the UN on Wednesday, Pablo de Greiff said that Lanka should not be hasty in trying to meet its commitments to the UNHRC.
“There is no country that can accomplish all this is a short period of time. Sri Lanka has embarked on an ambitious process that should not be prepared, let alone implemented, in haste,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“Those that are familiar with transitional processes in different parts of the world, do not expect Sri Lanka to adopt measures for the sake of demonstrating compliance with commitments that the country has made,” he added. He was in Lanka between January 26 and February 1.
De Greiff noted that the timeframe given to the Consultation Task Force on Transitional Justice suggests “unrealistic expectations”. The Task Force is to complete its work and report to the Prime Minister in just three months.
However, both Zeid and de Grieff wanted Colombo to do certain things immediately so that the war victims do not lose faith in the government’s intentions. Both said that the military should return the lands seized from civilians; address the question of missing persons; and speed up the judicial process in the case of Tamil detainees.