Democratisation and Accountability have to go hand in hand in Sri Lanka

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - Sri Lanka briefing Note no 08 ---Monday, February 24, 2014

Addressing the issues of Accountability, Reconciliation and Rule of Law are of pivotal importance to any post-war society. War leaves behind the matters of justice, equality and de-militarisation to be grappled with. Sri Lanka is no exception. This is more so when conflict remains, even after the war comes to an end, as in Sri Lanka today. Almost five years after the end of a three-decade war, Sri Lanka still has not been able to address these issues. Local and international calls for a credible and inde endent investigation into allegations of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that took lace during the last hase of the war has not seen any ositive res onse. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) initially denied that any such violations took place. The Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs has said on record that'' the government is not answerable for war deaths ". The GoSL has refused to accept and comply with the two resolutions adopted by the 19th and 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/19/L.2 and A/HRC/22/L.1/Rev1 respectively).

When the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navaneetham Pillay, visited Sri Lanka in August 2013, she was called an "agent of the terrorists" and ruling party leaders used abusive language against her. A number of people who met her to share their grievances had to face reprisals from the authorities. "Dissent and making complaints to the UN is unpatriotic" was the message given to justify these reprisals. !he resent government remains o ular and won successive national and rovincial elections after the end of the war. "et, it remains e#tremely un o ular amongst !amils in the war ravaged Northern rovince and to a lesser e#tent in the $astern rovince. !he !amil National Alliance %!NA& won an overwhelming victory in the North and $ast in the first ost-war arliamentary elections in '0(0. )ore recently, the !NA won more than *8+ of the votes in the first ever Northern ,rovincial -ouncil elections in Se tember '0(., des ite threats and intimidations against leading candidates and !amil news a ers su ortive of its cam aign. !here has been no rogress on investigating even some of the s ecific cases highlighted by the LL/-, such as the L!!$ cadres who surrendered to the Army and disa eared or the attacks on hos itals during the last hase of the war. !here has also been no rogress even on cases that the LL/- highlighted concerning the ostwar eriod, such as the '0(0 0ebruary disa earance and subse1uent killing of human rights defender, ,attani /a2eek, and the attack on the editor of the !amil daily 3thayan, 4uganathan , in 5uly '0((. !his culture of im unity has led to an ongoing discussion, domestically and internationally, on the need for an inde endent and credible accountability mechanism to investigate allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the war. !he !NA in articular has consistently called for such an inde endent im artial and international investigation. )ore recently, )aduluwaew Sobitha, a rominent Sinhalese 6uddhist )onk from -olombo, who is considered as one otential 7oint o osition residential candidate, also e# ressed his su ort for an international investigation. !he small but influential -hristian -lergy in the North and $ast has also consistently called for an international investigation as well as rominent human rights defenders and human rights organi2ations in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka from a aint brush8 Artwork by Sri Lankan Artist -handragu tha !enuwara. ,hoto8 9ikal a

:nternationally, such calls for an inde endent and international investigation also have gathered momentum8 :ndia has e# ressed its desire to see an ;inde endent and credible investigation; into the accountability issues in Sri Lanka< the Australian Senate has assed a resolution su orting the establishment of an ; international accountability mechanism< and a grou of 3S Senators have resented in 0ebruary '0(= a resolution to the 3nited States of America -ongress calling for an ;inde endent international accountability mechanism; to evaluate re orts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka. Leading human rights organi2ations, such as Amnesty :nternational, >uman /ights ?atch, the :nternational -risis @rou , and the :nternational -ommission of 5urists, have also echoed such calls. !he far reaching recommendations of the Sri LankaAs Lessons Learned and /econciliation -ommission %LL/-& on re-establishing democratic governance and the /ule of Law e#ist only on a er. !he @oSL re resentatives have made contradictory statements on the status of im lementing the LL/- recommendations ranging from ;it is 7ust start rolling; to ;almost com lete;. !he ,arliamentary o osition, the 3nited National ,arty %3N,&, has stated that ;what the government has im lemented are soft recommendations of the LL/recommendations. :t has not even thought of im lementing the hard recommendations;. 0urthermore, in a statement issued in 0ebruary '0(= the 3N, stated ;the rulers should have res ected the rights of its citi2ens, irres ective of race, religion or lace of origin and address the serious allegations levelled against them in a manner that is acce table to the eo le of this countryAA. According to a re ort ublished by the inde endent research institute 9eritB, even the im lementation of some of the soft recommendations is very weak. !he recent initiative of the @oSL, the -ommission to :nvestigate )issing ,ersons, has come under criticism for lack of mandate and ca acity. !he rule of law in Sri Lanka still suffers from the oliticisation and militarisation of government institutions. !he ,resident is em owered to make all a ointments to almost all institutions that should lay the role of checks and balances and be inde endent in any democracy. Cn to of weakening the ublic institutions, wides read ne otism is having a debilitating im act on the democratic norms of the country. ?ith the breakdown of the rule of law, Sinhala 6uddhist e#tremist grou s have taken law into their hands and the :slandAs religious minorities have been at the receiving end of this8 )ore than .00 recorded attacks on )uslim, -hristian and >indu religious laces have taken lace all over the country with com lete im unity in '0(. alone, in some cases even with clear state atronage.

:n the first 1uarter of '0(=, leaders of the @oSL, including the ,resident himself, have indicated their intentions to follow the !ruth and /econciliation -ommission %!/-& of South Africa. :n South Africa, the !/- was art and arcel of an in-de th democratisation rocess which included a brand new constitution. :n ost-war Sri Lanka, however, democracy has been in decline. !he (8th Amendment to the -onstitution of Sri Lanka and the illegal im eachment of the -hief 5ustice, Shirani 6andarana7eka, on olitical grounds illustrate this. Democratisation and establishing accountability have to go hand in hand in Sri Lanka. 6oth these rocesses need to com lement each other. !he @overnment of Sri Lanka has shown neither the willingness nor the ca acity to address these challenges and to move forward. !his makes consistent international human rights interventions in relation to Sri Lanka all the more im ortant and urgent.

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