OHCHR Investigative Report on Sri Lanka: Responses

(September 17, 2015, Colombo- Toronto – Geneva Sri Lanka Guardian) Responses made by various entities to the fresh OHCHR Investigative Report on Sri Lanka is follows;
[dropcapT[/dropcap]he Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
UN/HR/1/30
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka presents its compliments to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and with reference to the latter’s Note dated 10 September 2015 conveying an unedited advance copy of the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/61) and the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) (A/HRC/30/SRP.2) has the honour to submit the following comments:
The Government of Sri Lanka,
-takes note of the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/61), and the recommendations made by the High Commissioner;
-is pleased and encouraged by the High Commissioner’s recognition of the efforts of the new Government since the Presidential election of 8 January 2015 in dealing with issues of concern for the people of Sri Lanka relating to human rights, rule of law, governance, justice, institutional and legal reform and reconciliation;
-appreciates the due recognition given to the Government’s constructive engagement with the High Commissioner and OHCHR aimed at addressing post-conflict issues that impact on achieving reconciliation;
-remains firm in its conviction to take all possible measures to ensure non-recurrence in keeping with the mandate given by the people of the country twice this year, 2015, at the Presidential election in January and the Parliamentary election in August;
-will ensure dialogue and wide consultations with all stakeholders especially the victims of conflict, communities, political parties, civil society representatives, the military as well as the High Commissioner and his Office, bilateral partners, and other international organistions in putting in place mechanisms and measures that will facilitate the right to know, right to justice, reparations and guaranteeing non-recurrence with the aim of achieving reconciliation and durable peace to ensure long-term progress of all her citizens;
-takes note also of the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), recognises fully that this Report represents a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation, and will ensure that its content as well as recommendations receive due attention of the relevant authorities including the new mechanisms that are envisaged to be set up;
-remains open to continuing its engagement with the High Commissioner and his Office as well as the systems and procedures of the Human Rights Council, aimed at taking steps to safeguard and uphold the human rights of all her citizens.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the assurances of its highest consideration.
Colombo, 15 September 2015
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva

UN Members Should Back Hybrid Court – HRW
Governments Need to Follow Through to Ensure Justice for Civil War’s Victims – HRW
(Geneva) – The call by the United Nations’ top human rights officer for a domestic-international hybrid court to address allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka should receive strong endorsement by members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Human Rights Watch said today.
On September 16, 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, released a report on human rights abuses by Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during Sri Lanka’s civil war. His report calls for the establishment of a special court “integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” with an independent Sri Lankan investigative and prosecuting body, defense office, and witness and victims’ protection program.
“UN member states should strongly support the UN High Commissioner’s recommendation for a hybrid court as the best way to provide justice for all the victims of Sri Lanka’s long civil war,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “The Sri Lankan government should build on the goodwill of the international community and embrace this important initiative.”
The high commissioner’s report to the HRC, initially due in March 2015, had been deferred until September to allow Sri Lanka’s new government to act on a 2014 HRC resolution. The high commissioner’s report concludes that the “High Commissioner remains convinced that for accountability to be achieved in Sri Lanka, it will require more than a domestic mechanism. Sri Lanka should draw on the lessons learned and good practices of other countries that have succeeded with hybrid special courts, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.”
The report details credible allegations of laws-of-war violations by both government forces and the LTTE. These include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and other gender-based violence, the forced recruitment of children, the unlawful targeting of civilian and other protected objects, unlawful deprivation of liberty, and the intentional denial of humanitarian assistance. Although the Sri Lankan government refused to cooperate with the investigation, investigators for the report received and gathered evidence from a wide range of sources, including victims, national and international nongovernmental organizations, forensic doctors, and other professionals.
The report corroborates past findings into serious violations during the conflict, including a 2011 report by the Panel of Experts appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
In offering to provide advice and technical assistance, the report states that “Such a mechanism will be essential to give confidence to all Sri Lankans, in particular the victims, in the independence and impartiality of the process, particularly given the politicization and highly polarized environment in Sri Lanka.”
The proposed hybrid court should contain a majority of international judges and have an international chief prosecutor to best insulate the court from improper political and other interference, Human Rights Watch said.
In addition to a hybrid justice mechanism, the report also recommends that Sri Lanka adopt legislation criminalizing war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and enforced disappearances without a statute of limitations, and to enact command responsibility as a mode of liability. The report also calls on the government to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearance and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Discussions over the drafting of a resolution on Sri Lanka will begin shortly at the HRC. In their official response to the report, the Sri Lankan government agreed to engage with the report’s recommendations. The High Commissioner, in his opening remarks at this session of the HRC, stated that the Council’s credibility rested on ensuring “an accountability process that produces results,” and further noted in presenting his report that previous mechanisms set up by Sri Lanka were “almost designed to fail.”
“The High Commissioner’s call for a hybrid court is an important step forward, but it only marks the beginning of the campaign for justice,” Fisher said. “The credibility of the Human Rights Council and its members depends on ensuring that the recommendations are reflected in a resolution adopted this session, and that the council monitors these recommendations until justice is finally delivered.”
Canadian Tamil Congress Welcomes the OHCHR’s Damning Report on  Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Violations
Geneva, Switzerland – The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) welcomes the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”). The long awaited report, which was the result of an independent and credible investigation, finally acknowledges that grave human rights violations committed in Sri Lanka amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is important that we thank and pay tribute to the witnesses who made this report possible, taking incredible risks and re-living their harrowing experiences in order to provide evidence to the OHCHR.
The report makes findings that the Sri Lankan security forces as well as some paramilitary groups were responsible for disturbing violations of international law including unlawful killings, deprivation of liberty, sexual violence and enforced disappearances. The Sri Lankan government was also found to have denied humanitarian assistance and to have conducted indiscriminate shelling and attacks of civilians and hospitals in No Fire Zones, all of which, if tried in a court of law, would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report also makes serious findings against the LTTE in respect of forced recruitment and child recruitment and control of movement.
Given that crimes against humanity can only be proven in a court of law, one of the most significant recommendations contained in the High Commissioner’s report is the establishment of a special hybrid court with significant international involvement integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators and the use of international law.
“The levels of mistrust in State authorities and institutions by broad segments of Sri Lankan society should not be underestimated,” said the High Commissioner. “A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fuelled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises.”
CTC reiterates that any domestic process is unacceptable and unfit to address the grievances of the Tamil people. We therefore call upon members of the Human Rights Council to pass a resolution that adopts the recommendations of the High Commissioner, guarantees strict timelines for progress to be made and ensures that Sri Lanka remains an item on the international agenda.
The Tamil community, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, have waited long enough for justice and accountability for the violations committed in Sri Lanka. We hope that this report marks the beginning of a process that will see them receive justice.

Sri Lankans Without Borders Welcomes UN Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka Acknowledges the Courage of Witnesses and Other Testimonial Sources
Toronto, Canada – Sri Lankans Without Borders (SLWB) welcomes the new report of the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), presented at the Thirtieth session of the Human Rights Council on September 16, 2015.
The OISL Report is based on a comprehensive investigation into “alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period 2002-11”. The Report identifies “patterns of grave violations” indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity committed were most likely committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Report extensively documents a number of crimes, the most serious of which include unlawful killings, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, torture, child recruitment, abduction and forced recruitment of adults, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, denial of humanitarian assistance, and violations during the detention of internally displaced persons in closed camps.
As its key recommendation, the Report calls for the establishment of a hybrid special court “integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, as an essential step towards justice” given the repeated failure of successive domestic inquiries in the past. For this reason, SLWB has consistently maintained that only an international investigation can be fair and independent enough to deliver the kind of justice and accountability needed to allow for meaningful reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. While the OISL recommendation to create a hybrid court is welcome, it is critical that the OHCHR incorporates lessons learned from similar hybrid courts established elsewhere and plays an active role in co-designing the establishment and functioning of the proposed court.
SLWB also acknowledges the extraordinary courage of witnesses and others who provided testimonials to the OISL investigation team. The Report notes that identifying and protecting these witnesses was complex due to the lack of access to Sri Lanka, security and protection concerns, and risk of reprisals. While the prosecution of alleged perpetrators may take some time, it is imperative that these witnesses are honored by ensuring that the recommendations contained in the Report are fully implemented in their lifetime.
SLWB joins UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his appeal to all communities in Sri Lanka and in the diaspora to view the report as “an opportunity to change discourse from one of absolute denial to one of acknowledgment and constructive engagement to bring about change.”
It is important that Sri Lankan Canadians do the same by reaching out to each other across political differences and engage in critical but constructive conversations about the Report and its recommendations, and work together to achieve genuine reconciliation in Sri Lanka and in the Canadian diaspora.
Sri Lankans Without Borders (SLWB) is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada that provides an independent, transparent, and inclusive platform for Canadians to connect, build and lead initiatives that promote dialogue and cross-community engagement between Sri Lanka’s diaspora communities in Canada. Building on universal values of pluralism and equality, as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, SLWB is also committed to a peaceful and democratic Sri Lanka for all its citizens on the basis of truth, accountability, and justice. For more information, please visit www.slwb.ca.

Global Tamil Forum welcomes the OHCHR report and calls for its full implementation
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report that strongly indicated war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict and recommended the establishment of an internationalised Special Court for criminal prosecution.
The violations revealed in the report, characterised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, as “among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”, makes a harrowing reading, presenting evidence of horrific level of abuses suffered by the Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, denial of humanitarian assistance, ill treatment of IDPs, torture and sexual violence.
GTF is in full agreement with the report, which stated, “A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fueled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises,“ and supports the establishment of a “hybrid” Special Court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.
Member states must ensure that the forthcoming resolution at the UNHRC clearly articulates the need to include substantial participation of international personnel at each stage of the investigation and trial process.
We are grateful to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (both past and present), his staff and all who contributed for the important work that went into producing this report.  Undoubtedly, this whole exercise, the three UNHRC resolutions passed between 2012 and 2014 and the OHCHR investigation and report, restores confidence in the UN system as a whole to all communities and particularly to the Tamil community.
It is important that we acknowledge and pay tribute to the survivors who bravely came forward to share their stories and relive their horrific experiences, despite the fear and uncertainty they face, without which this report would not have been a reality.
GTF calls the member states of the UNHRC to adopt a resolution that captures all the recommendations of the OHCHR report, including establishing a Special Court, and call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fully cooperate.  As stated by Prince Zeid, “this Council (UNHRC) owes it to Sri Lankans – and to its own credibility – to ensure an accountability process that produces results, decisively moves beyond the failures of the past, and brings the deep institutional changes needed to guarantee non-recurrence.”
On our part, GTF acknowledges the violations and abuses suffered by all communities and heeds to Prince Zeid’s call and view the report as “an opportunity to change discourse from one of absolute denial to one of acknowledgment and constructive engagement to bring about change.”
Global Tamil Forum (GTF) was established in 2009 by a number of grass-roots Tamil groups following the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. It is the largest Tamil diaspora organisation with members drawn from five continents. GTF is absolutely committed to a non-violent agenda and it seeks a lasting peace in Sri Lanka, based on justice, reconciliation and a negotiated political settlement. For more information please contact info@globaltamilforum.org and/or visit: www.globaltamilforum.org
Source: http://www.slguardian.org/ohchr-investigative-report-on-sri-lanka-responses/

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