The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad bin Hussein has reiterated his demand for the extension of Universal Jurisdiction to Sri Lanka to enable courts in any part of the world to entertain war crimes cases against the Sri Lankan armed forces.
“The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary,” Zeid said in his opening speech at the 36 th. session of the UNHRC in Geneva on Monday.
The UNHRC has been charging that in the final phase of Eelam Wa IV against the Tamil Tiger rebels, the Sri Lankan armed forces had committed war crimes.
“I urge the Government to swiftly operationalize the Office of Missing Persons and to move faster on other essential confidence building measures, such as release of land occupied by the military, and resolving long-pending cases registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.”
“I repeat my request for that Act to be replaced with a new law in line with international human rights standards.”
“ In the North, protests by victims indicate their growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms. I encourage the Government to act on its commitment in Resolution 30/1 to establish transitional justice mechanisms, and to establish a clear timeline and benchmarks for the implementation of these and other commitments. “
“This should not be viewed by the Government as a box-ticking exercise to placate the Council, but as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all its people,” Zeid said.
In a sense, the Sri Lankan government has already accepted Universal Jurisdiction as in the last UNHRC resolution it co-sponsored, it “appreciated” Zeid’s recommendations which included Universal Jurisdiction.
However, in reality, whenever the issue of international action under Universal Jurisdiction against Sri Lankan army officers crops up, the Sri Lankan government categorically states that it will not allow any officer to be dragged to face trial in any foreign court.
President Maithipala Sirisena had himself said this recently, when a Former Army Commander and Ambassador in Brazil Gen.Jagath Jayasuriya, was issued a summons by a court in Brazil for alleged war crimes. Gen.Jayasuriya had escaped arrest as he had finished his tenure and left the country by the time the summons was issued.
But Gen.Jayasuriya’s predecessor as Army Chief, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has charged that Gen.Jayasuriya had committed war crimes when he was in charge of captured Tamil Tiger cadres in Vavuniya though he was not commanding any fighting unit.
The current Army Chief Lt.Gen.Mahesh Senanayake ticked off Field Marshal Fonseka for letting down army personnel to settle personal scores. Fonseka and Jayasuriya have been at daggers drawn for long.