By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Maithripala Sirisena has reiterated accountability mechanisms recommended by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) wouldn’t be accepted under any circumstances.
The President vowed that war heroes wouldn’t be allowed to be produced before foreign judges as alleged by disgruntled politicians and some retired military personnel.
The latest assurances were given when he addressed a gathering of senior officers at the Colombo Army Hospital auditorium on Thursday evening.
President Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces addressed the army in the wake UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff declaration in Colombo they expected Sri Lanka to take tangible measures in that regard.
Greiff, in an obvious reference to often repeated President Sirisena’s remark, expressed concern over the use of rhetoric such as ‘war heroes will never be brought to trial.’
The UN official said that the promise regarding ‘war heroes’ is a legally unenforceable political statement, and therefore couldn’t offer any real security. The official said: “In order to make it effective it would ultimately require a violation of the principle of the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, amongst others. Moreover, needless to say, it offers absolutely no warranty internationally. As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the Armed Forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here or abroad. In my opinion, this is an additional reason for the country, with the full support of the Armed Forces –who stand a lot to gain from this process– to establish a robust and credible comprehensive transitional justice policy.”
The Colombian declared that those who had perpetrated human rights violations or laws pertaining to conflict/war didn’t deserve to be called heroes.
President Sirisena’s message was transmitted live to Security Forces Headquarters, Divisions and other formations where approximately 30,000 officers and men received it.
Army headquarters quoted President Sirisena as having said that those who had been suspected of committing atrocities would be dealt in local courts under existing laws and wouldn’t be produced before war tribunals.
President Sirisena said the UN had been briefed of Sri Lanka’s stand.
In Oct 2015 Sri Lanka co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 in Geneva where the government accepted foreign judges, including those from the Commonwealth and other experts.
President Sirisena also promised to intervene on behalf of those wanting to go overseas. Among those who had been denied visas over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations were Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Maj. Gen. Chagi Gallage denied US and Australian visas, respectively.
Recently, UN project here received a setback when the House of Lords was told that the primary allegation pertaining to the massacre of 40,000 during the Vanni offensive couldn’t be accepted and the figure should be revised to 8,000.