01/12/2017, 14.10
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Reconciliation task force calls on government to establish a hybrid court

by Melani Manel Perera

The presidential task force submitted its final document. It was set up last year to seek opinions on how to investigate war crimes. Experts recommend a "hybrid" mechanism that includes national and international judges, as well as experts. The government insists on a local court.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The special task force established last year by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickreamasinghe to encourage a process of national reconciliation has recommended Sri Lanka immediately set up a mixed special court to investigate crimes committed during the civil war and draw on the expertise of local and international judges, as well as other experts.

Although the task force stresses the need for impartial investigations to include foreign staff, a government spokesperson said that the body should be exclusively national.

The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) delivered its report to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Set up last year, the Task Force was led by Manori Muttetuwegama, a well-known activist and lawyer, together with 11 other experts.

The latter heard political leaders, religious and civic officials, Tamil Tigers veterans, army officers and military commanders.

The aim is to create a legal entity able to receive complaints from war victims and provide the best possible assistance, sitting in judgement in a competent and impartial way. For this reason, "The office of the Special Counsel should be established without delay," the report said.

Previously, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, had called for the creation of a hybrid court in Sri Lanka, noting that "A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fueled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises".

The Task Force calls on the government to ensure a majority of national judges and at least one international judge on every bench hearing cases on accountability and grave crimes committed during the war.

The selection criteria for judges should be set out by the constitutional council in consultation with professional and civil society organisations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

A government spokesman said that even if a government appointed committee makes a proposal, it is for the government to decide what to do.

Spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne stressed that the government is clear in its stand that a purely domestic mechanism will be used to investigate incidents related to the war whilst foreign technical assistance will be used if required.

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