Foreign role where needed: without judges | Sunday Observer

Foreign role where needed: without judges

9 October, 2016

The government is contemplating alternative ways to ensure credibility of the truth seeking and accountability mechanisms in the backdrop of constitutional stumbling blocks and President Maithripala Sirisena’s ‘s opposition to invite international judges to sit in judgment in the special trial court.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer said the Government will not permit the foreign judges issue to get in the way of finding a trustworthy mechanism to investigate allegations of war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka, to redeem the good name of the country.

“Between these two positions of having foreign judges and not having them, there are many acceptable options which can be explored and finalised,” he said.

The Minister denied that Sri Lanka was having a war crimes tribunal, or a hybrid court explaining that both terms were misleading and incorrect. “There are no tribunals. There are allegations of war crimes, the mechanisms are to make a credible investigation if those allegations are true,” he stressed adding that the judicial mechanism will come into play only if the claims are proved to be true.

He said the hybrid courts are appointed by the UN and the government had no authority to appoint judges to such Courts which was not the case with Sri Lanka.

“If the allegations are not true then we will say it, but we are not going to shoot the messenger like the previous government.”

The Foreign Minister said in case there is credible evidence of war crimes, the Government will identify the top line of command, without trying to punish the lower rankers who would have merely carried out orders from the top.

He said the intention of the Government is to come up with a credible process that will be trusted by all stake holders and the world community. “I am confident that our model will be a blueprint for other transitional justice mechanisms of the future. “

The Minister also denied that the Government was taking an unnecessary risk by completely demilitarising the North and returning some of the land taken over by the military, in the midst of speculation of an LTTE revival.

“It is the duty of the government, to ensure that there is no such insurrection and that can only be done, not through having military camps but by winning the hearts and minds of the Tamil people,” the Minister said.