Sri Lanka needs "hybrid" court on abuses

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Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that previous Sri Lanka-led inquiries were “designed to fail”. Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré

The victims of Sri Lanka's violent past can only expect to see justice if their country sets up a so-called "hybrid" probe into human rights violations, the UN said Wednesday.

The call for an investigation by domestic and international prosecutors from UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein came as he unveiled a long-awaited report into abuses in the country from 2002 to 2011.

It highlights myriad human rights violations including torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings as government forces battled separatists.

Daniel Johnson has more.

As UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein unveiled his office's report into Sri Lanka's recent violent past, he highlighted the importance of setting up a probe to ensure justice for the tens of thousands of people who'd suffered torture, sexual abuse and indiscriminate shelling.

Key to this investigation would be what Zeid called a "hybrid" court, with international and domestic judges and investigators.

It's needed because all previous attempts to investigate violations by the previous Sri Lankan government were "designed to fail" and had only resulted in "years of cover-ups" and reprisals against victims and their families, Zeid said.

"A purely domestic court procedure will simply not succeed in overcoming the widespread and justifiable suspicions fuelled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises."

The UN report is unusual because it covers such a long period of alleged abuse in Sri Lanka, from 2002 to 2011.

It contains what the UN rights chief described as "harrowing reading", alleging violations by all sides involved in fighting between Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary groups.

The rights chief also welcomed what he described as an encouraging domestic situation, in reference to the new Sri Lankan government.

But he also insisted that the timeframe for setting up the new hybrid body must be done with urgency.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'14"


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