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10 February, 2016 09:09 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka
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Taking the wind out of ultra-nationalist sails, the UN Human Rights Chief yesterday acknowledged it is up to the Sri Lankan Government to implement a hybrid court including international judges to address allegations of war crimes, but insisted any justice mechanism should focus on victims of the country’s three-decade conflict.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein concluding a “more cooperative and friendly” four-day visit to the South Asian island acknowledged positive steps have been taken by the Sri Lankan Government but noted the formation of a hybrid court was the decision of the Sri Lankan Government.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein  yesterday called on President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat. The UN Human Rights Chief and the President held cordial discussions on the current developments

The broad consensus building discussions have begun and “it is the sovereign right” of Sri Lanka to decide on the hybrid court. However, “whatever you do is for naught if the victims cannot say the Government has done enough,” he pointed out.

Last September the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report on alleged human rights abuses by Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which included allegations of as many as 40,000 civilians dying during the last phase of the conflict that ended in 2009.

The report called for the establishment of a special court “integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” with an independent Sri Lankan investigative and prosecuting body, defence office, and witness and victims’ protection program. The resolution was unanimously accepted by Sri Lanka and 41 members of the council.

“There are many myths and misconceptions about the resolution, and what it means for Sri Lanka. It is not a gratuitous attempt to interfere with or undermine the country’s sovereignty or independence. It is not some quasi-colonial act by some nebulous foreign power. The acceptance of the resolution was a moment of strength, not weakness, by Sri Lanka. It was the country’s commitment to both itself and to the world to confront the past honestly and, by doing that, take out comprehensive insurance against any future devastating outbreak of inter communal tensions and conflict,” the UN official said.

However, the possibility of a hybrid court created much criticism for the Government, which was slammed by Opposition parties led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the grounds the military could be persecuted as human rights abusers.

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