Sri Lanka: NGOs refuse to participate in reconciliation commission
29 October 2010

Justice is an essential element of sustainable peace and reconciliation, Mannar, northwestern Sri Lanka, (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
The lack of any provision for the protection of witnesses is extremely worrying
Rome, 20 October 2010 – A group of international NGOs – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group – have refused a government invitation to appear before Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), describing it as lacking credibility.

The organisations, in a public letter to the commission, have stated they would welcome the opportunity to appear before a genuine, credible effort to pursue accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, indicating that the LLRC falls far short of such an effort.

According to the human rights organisations, the LLRC not only fails to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries, but is proceeding against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses. Despite a litany of reports highlighting violations in the country, Sri Lanka has made no progress since the end of the war in addressing the concerns detailed in these reports.

In addition to such failures, the NGOs described the LLRC as deeply flawed in structure and practice. Despite its mandate to investigate all credible allegations of human rights violations by both rebel and government forces, particularly during the latter stages of the conflict, the LLRC has not shown any genuine interest in investigating allegations against the armed forces.

Lack of independence and protection

A fundamental requirement for any commission of this type is that its members are independent. The membership of the LLRC, as the letter states, is far from that, having recruited senior government representatives who have publicly defended the conduct of the military against allegations of war crimes.

In addition, the lack of any provision for the protection of witnesses is extremely worrying, particularly in a scenario where government officials label as "traitors" persons making allegations against government forces.

Moreover, even though the war is over, the country is still operating under a state of emergency, with laws that criminalise political speech and where there is no meaningful investigation of attacks on government critics.

This clearly undermines the Commission's ability to conduct credible investigations of alleged violations of international or national law. Until effective protection of witnesses can be guaranteed, no organisation or individual can responsibly disclose confidential information to the Commission.

For a full copy of the letter see

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