Addressing the Thematic Debate:”Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation” on 10th April 2013, in New York Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations said that
International criminal justice, as it is widely understood today, is very much centered on a Western historical and cultural mind set. It pays only lip service to the cultural backgrounds of the much of the world.
Accountability, particularly retributive justice, appears to be the first choice, in general, to facilitate reconciliation. There are other paths to this laudable goal. To suggest that there is only way to achieve reconciliation or to advocate a one size fits all approach is to neglect the traditions and experience familiar to the rest of the world.
A functioning international criminal justice system would complement the transitional justice in countries seeking to foster the rule of law, help to establish the truth of what happened during conflict situations and contribute to reconciliation. Many eminent jurists and legal thinkers, especially in the West, continue to subscribe to this thinking”.
Consistent with international law and practice, the responsibility to investigate any alleged violations of global humanitarian and human rights standards must rest with the State itself, in the first instance. In most jurisdictions, breaches of global standards also equate to breaches of criminal law. International criminal justice systems may intervene, if at all, only where national judicial authorities do not, or cannot act themselves. Domestic mechanisms should be given primacy and the time and space to complete their processes. The domestic mechanisms carry greater legitimacy as they would draw on tradition and accepted practice.
We hope that the UN approach to accountability and reconciliation will take a much broader view than simply emphasising punitive justice. Other approaches must be respected. Where punitive justice is employed it must operate within a neutral, non-selective and impartial framework.
Allegations of sexual and other violations against women and children must be addressed with a view to compensating the victims, restoring them to normalcy and ensuring that the criminal acts will not be repeated. We must establish a process that enables countries to share expertise, knowledge, assistance, analysis, advice, lessons learnt and best practices with a view to strengthening national legal systems. The United Nations must provide leadership in capacity building efforts to aid reconciliation.