A judicial mechanism to try war crimes cases, which will also have non-Sri Lankan nationals as Judges, will be set up only after wide consultations with “religious leaders, politicians and military officials”, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told New York Times on Thursday.
“This is something new to our government and to our people. It’s a new experience,” Sirisena said.
“The mechanism must be domestic,” he added for good measure.
The NYT said that Sirisena was not willing to commit himself to any particular judicial mechanism, saying he will keep an open mind and make sure it is in keeping with Lanka’s Constitution.
The paper quoted a Sirisena aide as saying that it is not possible for the country to set up a new international court without amending its Constitution, which, he said, will be “extremely difficult politically.”
A resolution to establish a Special Court with the participation of foreign and Commonwealth judges was adopted without a vote by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday. Since Lanka co-sponsored the resolution, it is committed to implementing it.
But NYT pointed out that the resolution had left open the question of exactly what kind of court would be established.
Tamil National Alliance MP D.Siddharthan told Express that in the past, foreign judges had inquired into criminal cases in Lanka, such as the death of General Kobbekaduwa in a landmine blast in the 1990s. Foreign legal experts had overseen the working of Lankan commissions of inquiry in President Rajapaksa’s time, he recalled.
“And friendly and cooperative judges could be chosen,” he pointed out.
However, Siddharthan had no hope that a satisfactory international judicial mechanism will be set up.
“In parliament, it will get bogged down in controversy whipped up by Sinhalese nationalists cutting across party lines. And the government will let it drag on, hoping that the international community and the Tamils will forget it over time.”
Asked whether the US and the West will turn a blind eye to this, Siddharthan said that they might, if the Lankan government takes decisions serving the West’s geopolitical and economic interests without hobnobbing with its rivals in the region. (New Indian Express)