Do we need foreign judges?

July 31, 2016

We should pay attention to a public statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena several days ago with regard to the proposal of permitting international participation in an accountability probe on war crimes allegedly carried out by both the military and the LTTE during the last stages of the war. The, President stated that until he is the President of Sri Lanka, no foreign judges or courts will be part of any judicial process. With this statement what became clear was that the legislature and executive hold two different opinions with regard to the issue.

Accountability on human rights was the biggest weapon leveled against Sri Lanka during the post war period. The United Nations High Rights Council repeatedly said that there were human rights violations in the last phase of the war in Sri Lanka and called for economic sanctions against the country.

The reason for those calls was that Western countries did not want to see Sri Lanka ending the North East terrorism by military means. We still recall how the Western powers including the US urged Sri Lanka to suspend its war against terrorism. Owing to that reason, powerful members of the international community leveled charges of human rights violations against the Rajapaksa government and Sri Lanka.

The issue came to the lime light again when Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera stated at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that Sri Lanka was willing to consider international participation when investigating incidents related to the war. Accordingly it has been proposed to set up a hybrid court comprising Lankan and foreign judges in the judicial process to investigate incidents related to the war. It has also been reported that the international community keeps inquiring from Sri Lanka as to why that process is delayed.

Now with the Presidential statement, it is clear that the executive and legislature are divided in opinion.

It is not the wish of the people to make people in the North and the East to suffer more. They have suffered enough. Making accusations and counter accusations would only derail ongoing process of reconciliation. Terrorism is brutal and it is over now. What is needed now is making an effort to reconcile and create harmony among communities.

Dancing to the tune of western powers and human rights organisations would not help that process. We should show the rest of the world that we are capable of remedying our problems and rectifying the errors we made. That would help the country’s development and contribute to long lasting peace.

Tissa Attanayake

Former MP


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