Exiled Lankan Tamils willing to testify against human rights violations: ITJP report

Colombo : The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) Sri Lanka in its report stated the exiled Tamil victims of war crimes and torture have said that they would testify via video before a special court in Sri Lanka only if international judges were involved and their identities protected.

“It’s important that thousands of Tamils who’ve fled Sri Lanka have a voice, especially as some are the only known surviving witnesses to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the Colombo Page quoted its author Yasmin Sooka as saying.

The report by the ITJP comes at a time as the Island nation prepares to present its progress in implementing a transitional justice program it outlined in October last year and agreed to in a consensus UN resolution at the Human Rights Council in Geneva next week.

According to an ITJP report, victims interviewed in the study clearly identified criminal accountability, including the prosecution of those who were in positions of superior and command responsibility as their top priority.

They were also clear that all of the transitional justice mechanisms, particularly the special court, must have a majority international staff in the form of judges, prosecutors, investigators and commissioners in order to guarantee independence and inspire their trust.

The victims were clear that no amnesty should be offered for international crimes.

“These findings have huge implications for the design of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka,” said Sooka.

She said that donors, the international community and the Sri Lankan Government must take note and facilitate the participation of these victims.

Both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have reaffirmed to the victims that there will be no foreign judges in the domestic mechanism that will be set up to take judicial action on human rights violations allegedly committed by government troops and the LTTE during the military conflict.

They, however, asserted that the country will seek the consultations of foreign judges and lawyers for the domestic mechanism within the legal framework allowed by the Constitution.

The victims have already identified prosecutions as the most urgent priority, with reparations and constitutional reform the least important.

However, most refugees and asylum seekers said that they would never return to Sri Lanka citing it would never be safe to do so. (ANI)