Sri Lanka hears new call for international justice commission

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The Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Sri Lanka's efforts to repair the damage done and injustices linked to decades of civil war could be speeded up with the help of an international probe, UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday.

Zeid was addressing the Human Rights Council where he spoke of a "consistent failure" to punish serious crimes or take action against security forces.

In an appeal for the country's government to show that past crimes will not be forgotten, the UN rights chief said he was disturbed to hear reports that members of Sri Lankan civil society have been intimidated at the UN in Geneva.

Daniel Johnson has more.

In a detailed appraisal of Sri Lanka's efforts to provide justice for victims of the country's 25-year civil war, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he welcomed recent government reform.

This had led to many recommendations on how to improve people's fundamental rights, the judiciary, even public services.

But what is needed urgently, the UN rights chief said, is justice for thousands of victims of alleged abuses from all ethnic and religious groups; the establishment of an Office for Missing Persons and the release of land occupied by the military.

The inability to address past injustices, combined with the public's "lack of trust" in the justice system, reinforced the need for international participation in Sri Lanka's recovery, Zeid said:

"The consistent failure to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish serious crimes appears to reflect a broader reluctance or fear to take action against members of the security forces."

The same security forces were responsible for continuing reports of torture, Zeid said.

He went on to condemn reports that civil society representatives from Sri Lanka had been intimidated at the UN in Geneva during this Human Rights Council session.

In reply, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, stressed that the country's resolve to reconciliation "had not diminished" and that there was a strong belief that the process would be ultimately successful.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’28″


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