No foreign judges or hybrid court
Posted on March 26th, 2017

By Skandha Gunasekara Courtesy Ceylon Today

The effects of the pressure on the government from the international community to investigate alleged war crimes and to bring about reconciliation were evident in Parliament this week with the government making statements on the matter while the JVP slamming the government for attempting to renew a military deal with the US.

Minister of Justice, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, in Parliament this week criticized the international community for making unrealistic demands from the government. While taking part in the scheduled debate he charged that investigating war crimes while simultaneously trying to bring about reconciliation was impractical and would only cause more inter-communal tensions.

“Advocating for reconciliation while investigating war crimes that took place during the war is like two separate railway tracks that never meet. Probing war crimes could actually create more tension among ethnic groups,” the minister said.

Benefits of GSP+

He went on to declare that it was high time Sri Lanka received the benefits of the GSP+ as the government has done its best to meet the criteria required by the European Union.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe asserted that no foreign Judges or hybrid Courts would be allowed in the process of investigating alleged war crimes.

He said an indigenous mechanism would be set up to probe alleged war crimes.

“There would be no hybrid Courts, no foreign Judges and nothing that would harm the unitary status or sovereignty of the country,” he said.

He made these remarks in response to questions raised by Joint Opposition (JO) group leader, MP Dinesh Gunawardena who demanded to know as to whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs had agreed with a proposal to establish a hybrid Court comprising foreign Judges to investigate alleged war crimes which is a violation of the Constitution.

International Criminal Court

The Prime Minister replied that the government would never agree with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“This is not only our policy, but the standpoint of all South Asian countries,” the Prime Minister said and added, “In 2009 the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa issuing a joint statement with the then UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon agreed to act on the proposals made by the UNHRC and other nations with regard to issues of accountability. In that statement there is a reference that alleged human rights violations occurred during the times of war should be investigated. It also said the government agreed to investigate them. It was the first time such an agreement between the government and a foreign agency has taken place with regard to a war crime probe.”

“We have never agreed nor would we agree with a proposal that includes foreign Judges hearing our cases to undermine the unitary status or sovereignty of the country. We would never support such a proposal. We would never be a party to such an agreement.”

“The UNHRC has appreciated the actions the government has taken towards reconciliation such as passing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and measures we have taken to strengthen institutions of democracy.

“They have stated that those who investigate the alleged war crimes of the past should be independent. There is no question about that. They have also stated that the war crimes committed by the LTTE too should be investigated. There is no mentioning or insistence of the inclusion of foreign Judges.”

Judicial mechanism

“They have agreed with our proposal for the setting up of a judicial mechanism. Our proposal is to establish such a mechanism only within the frame of constitutional provisions. Our proposal would not overstep the existing provisions of the constitution.”

“In the 2009 report of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, there are references with regard to Sri Lanka joining the International Court of Justice and of a hybrid Court. We do not agree with any of them. After 2009, representatives of the former government agreed in New York to initiate legal actions against those who led the war. As a part of that agreement they dragged Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka out of his office and put him behind bars. Thereafter in 2014 G.L. Peiris said the government was ready to initiate legal action to prosecute those who are responsible for the Muttur and Trincomalee killings.

“We will not agree for an international Court. We would only bring about a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism as per the provisions of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, we will have to appoint Sri Lankan Judges. We are not against obtaining the services of foreign observers or experts. It was not us who appointed the Darusman Committee. We did not enter into agreements in New York against the interests of the country. We know how the Darusman Committee was appointed. We state here that we would never breach or violate the Constitution.”

Military deal

Meanwhile, the JVP lashed out at the government for trying to renew a military deal with the US, which they claimed was detrimental to the country’s national interests.

Chief Opposition Whip and leader of the JVP, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, stressed that the renewal of the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Sri Lanka and the US would have a negative impact on both national security as well as that of other nations in the region.

The JVP leader said the purpose of the ACSA was to provide military assistance to each other, between the US and Sri Lanka, during military operations and pointed out that this would effectively clash with commitments made by Sri Lanka to other nations in the region.

“Although it is an agreement, we are not a nation that takes its armies around the globe. The ACSA would only benefit the US. The agreement would ultimately compel us to forgo our obligations to other nations in the region,” the Chief Oppositon Whip said.

He noted that the ACSA, which was signed in March 2007 by the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and US Ambassador in Colombo Robert O. Blake, came to an end on 5 March this year and that the government’s attempt to renew and extend the agreement a further 10 years would be detrimental to the nation.

Logistical supplies

He explained that the ACSA permitted the transfer and exchange of logistical supplies, support and refuelling services during peace keeping missions, humanitarian operations and joint exercises between the Sri Lanka and the US.

“According to the agreement we are bound to allow the US military to use our land, sea and air space during any war in the region and also to provide them with infrastructure facilities. Thus we have no choice but to be a US ally during any war situation,” MP Dissanayake pointed out.

“The government must inform the House of the content of the agreement prior to it being signed. On the previous occasion, the former government hid the contents of the agreement from the public, Parliament and even the Cabinet of Ministers,” he said.

One Response to “No foreign judges or hybrid court”

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