The Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, clarified on Friday, that the judicial mechanism Lanka will set up to try war crimes and human rights cases, will be a “domestic one” and not a “hybrid one” with foreign and Lankan judges.
Addressing a special media briefing here on his return from New York where he attended the UN General Assembly session, Sirisena said: “We have removed the term hybrid from the US draft. We have firmly taken the stand that it is a domestic mechanism which will be implemented in Sri Lanka.”
He further said that the mechanism will conform to the constitution of Sri Lanka.
Regarding the US-backed resolution adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, he said that involvement of foreign judges was only a “suggestion and not a directive.”
“Nobody has ordered us. It is not an order only a proposal,” he asserted.
The President further said that the government will convene an all-party conference and a religious leaders’ conference in the near future to discuss finding solutions to matters raised in the UNHRC resolution.
Earlier in New York, he told New York Times that a judicial mechanism to try war crimes cases will be set up only after wide consultations with “religious leaders, politicians and military officials”.
“This is something new to our government and to our people. It’s a new experience,” Sirisena said.
The paper quoted a Sirisena aide as saying that it is not possible for the country to set up a new international court without amending its Constitution, which, he said, will be “extremely difficult politically.”
A resolution to establish a Special Court with the participation of foreign and Commonwealth judges was adopted without a vote by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday. Since Lanka co-sponsored the resolution, it is committed to implementing it.
Tamil National Alliance MP D.Siddharthan told New Indian Express that in the past, foreign judges had inquired into criminal cases in Lanka, such as the death of General Kobbekaduwa in a landmine blast in the 1990s. Foreign legal experts had overseen the working of Lankan commissions of inquiry in President Rajapaksa’s time, he recalled.
“And friendly and cooperative judges could be chosen,” he pointed out.
But Siddharthan had no hope that a satisfactory international judicial mechanism will be set up.
“In parliament, it will get bogged down in controversy whipped up by Sinhalese nationalists cutting across party lines. And the government will let it drag on, hoping that the international community and the Tamils will forget it over time.”
Asked whether the US and the West will turn a blind eye to this, Siddharthan said that they might, if the Lankan government takes decisions serving the West’s geopolitical and economic interests without hobnobbing with its rivals in the region.