A United Nations expert Monday warned Sri Lanka to speedily investigate its troops over alleged war crimes or risk international prosecutions.
Pablo de Greiff, the special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, said Colombo was slow to deliver justice to victims and demanded swift action eight years after the war’s end.
He said a war crimes complaint last month in Brazil against Sri Lanka’s then ambassador, a former war general, underscored the risk faced by local military personnel even in their retirement.
“As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the armed forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here (in Sri Lanka) or abroad,” de Greiff said at the end of a two-week.
He said the attempted prosecution of retired general Jagath Jayasuriya was the “tip of the iceberg.” He feared more such cases in foreign jurisdictions unless Colombo ensured a credible domestic investigation.
Two days after the South African-based rights group, the International Truth and Justice Project, filed cases against Jayasuriya, he left Brazil in what Colombo said was at the end of his two-year posting.
De Greiff criticised Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s public claim that he will not allow “war heroes” to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.
Sri Lanka faced international censure over the failure of the former regime to acknowledge civilian casualties while battling Tamil Tiger guerrillas.
Sirisena’s government came to power in January 2015 on a promise to ensure justice for war victims. However, after two years in power, Sirisena’s administration had been slow to deliver on accountability.
Unlike his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse, Sirisena has agreed to investigate war crimes, but is yet to set up a mechanism for it.
De Greiff said there had been no progress even in some of the “emblematic cases” of rights abuses and said the government’s plan to grant reparations and ensure non-recurrence was not a substitute to accountability.
He urged the government to “adopt a comprehensive transitional justice strategy that includes a clear calendar” and also asked Colombo to draw on the expertise of the UN human rights chief’s office.