'Not looking for the guilty' - Kohona
The commission set up by the government is sufficient to investigate the allegations of humanitarian standards and human rights violations say the Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha Kohona.
Speaking to BBC Tamil Service he said that since Sri Lanka had established a commission of enquiry under the parliamentary act and it has full powers to investigate, there is no need for another international body to do the same.
United Nations and many prominent human rights organisations are calling for an independent international investigation in to war crimes committed during the last stages of the war by both the government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels.
International body will confuse
“It will be a confusing thing to have another international body to investigate these claims” said Dr Kohona
Pointing out that there is no precedent any where in the world where enquiries had been established by anybody on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations Dr Kohona said “even the ICG report refers to this that and another thing but there is no just substantiation with accurate evidence”.
When pointed out that the ICG [International Crisis Group] report quoted sworn affidavits, photographs and video footage of abuses, the ambassador said the evidence was not sufficient to launch any investigation.
In a recent report, International Crisis Group claimed that, from eyewitness evidence, it believes at least 30,000 civilians were killed or unaccounted for and countless others wounded and deprived of food and medicine during the last stage of the war in Sri Lanka. The report also say that there is evidence that government forces intentionally shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.
The report of the ICG was followed by another comprehensive report by the Human Rights Watch [HRW]. HRW report also detailed war crimes allegations. The report was illustrated with witness statements and detailed photographs of alleged crimes taking place.
“You should not establish a panel or enquiry on the basis of irresponsible allegations made by organisations” added the ambassador.
Earlier this year, UN secretary General said that his Chief of staff Vijay Nambiar and Dr. Palitha Kohona were having discussions about the UN appointing an advisory panel of experts on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The Secretary General confirmed to the media this week that he is in the process of setting up the advisory panel.
According to Ambassador Kohona Sri Lanka’s approach is not to find guilty parties and punish them but to deal with them in old Sri Lankan way.
“We don’t go around looking for guilty party and string them up, that attitude comes from a different culture” Dr Kohona Said.
Causes of the conflict
According to him the commission will also look into all aspects, breaches of humanitarian standards and human rights and will make recommendations on parties who may be responsible.
The commission may recommend restitution to individual or groups who may have suffered in the process.
The human rights campaigners say another commission appointed by the government will not deliver justice for the victims of war. The commission has no mandate to prosecute or bring any charges against perpetrators.
Dr Kohona who claims the commission as a comprehensive process also said that this commission is similar to South African Truth and Reconciliation commission but not be the same.
“This is our own approach, this is our domestic process and we take responsibility for it” he said
Ambassador Kohona argues that the recommendations by the commission will direct the authorities on how to deal with individuals and groups who may have been responsible for certain acts.
He also reminded that one party to the conflict no longer exist thus this is an exercise not finding guilty party to punish.
“We have established a commission and we are fully confident. So we can deal with our own issues in our own way” he said.
Former UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour, current President of the International Crisis Group [ICG] told the BBC Sinhala Service that the Commission appointed by the government is unresponsive to the allegations of violations raised by the human rights organisations.