UN studying the LLRC report, but rights groups see holes

The United Nations will closely study the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report and the Secretary General has expressed hope that the Sri Lankan Government will take measures to address accountability issues in good faith, a spokesman said.

The Secretary General’s response came subsequent to a question raised by the UN-based news blog Inner City Press. The answer was sent to the news blog through an email message. The UN Secretary General’s spokesman Farhan Haq in the email message said: “The Secretary-General notes that the report of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was tabled in parliament today and welcomes that it has been made public.

“The United Nations will be studying the report closely. The Secretary-General hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will move forward with its commitment to address accountability concerns in good faith as an essential step towards reconciliation and lasting peace in the country.”

The UN response came as two international human rights groups criticized the LLRC report.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the report had cleared the military of key charges and insisted on accountability.

Renewing calls for an independent probe on the last stages of the war, HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams said, “Governments and UN bodies have held back for the past 18 months to allow the Sri Lankan commission to make progress on accountability.”

“The commission's failure to provide a roadmap for investigating and prosecuting wartime perpetrators shows the dire need for an independent, international commission,” he said in a statement.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, said the commission acknowledged problems in Sri Lanka but ignored “serious evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of the laws of war.”

“There is a clear sign of the bias we had feared and already detected in the LLRC's composition and conduct,” said the London-based group's Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi. “It does, however, offer some interesting recommendations about how to improve the overall human rights situation in Sri Lanka that the government needs to take seriously.

“The Sri Lankan government must now address the findings included in this report,” Mr. Zarifi added, calling for Colombo to report to the UN Human Rights Council in March on its progress. Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said there were some LLRC findings which were acceptable while others were not.

Speaking at a temple ceremony at Ratmalana last afternoon, he said the government would have to take the good from the report and have a detailed plan of action to implement them. “The report has recommended that its proposals should be implemented with consensus with all political parties. This means that the government will need to discuss with opposition parties and get their consensus,” he said.

The LLRC report, however, was critical of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) introduced by the Wickremesinghe government from 2002-2004 saying all the stakeholders were not consulted before its signing and that the short-term peace accrued did not translate into long term benefits for the people. It was also critical of the Norwegian facilitation in the peace process.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna spokesman Vijitha Herath said the Commission had failed to identify the actual problems, but merely submitted a report to be placed before the international community to avoid further pressure from it. “The Commission has failed to reach a conclusion in most of the incidents and instead has left them ambiguous,” he said.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said the report could not be accepted as it had several shortcomings.
TNA MP Suresh Premachandran said the commission had failed to address the issue of ‘accountability’ despite the UN saying there was ‘credible evidence’ of alleged ‘war crimes’.However, others have hailed the report as it seeks to promote Rule of Law and strengthen democracy in post-conflict Sri Lanka.
The LLRC has called for the re-establishment of the Independent Police and Public Service Commissions in its report.

Pointing out that the increased politicisation of the police had led to a breakdown of public confidence in the Rule of Law, the LLRC is virtually asking for the restoration of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that introduced these independent Commissions in 2001, but was done away with by the introduction of the 18th Amendment last year by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, or any new mechanism that will restore the independence of the Police and the Public Service.

In a damning commentary of what is happening in the country, the LLRC says political interference in the law enforcement agencies has overridden the rights of ordinary citizens and provided patronage to those who have violated the law.

The report says that among the issues that emerged during the Commission’s deliberations were the failure on the part of the law enforcement officers to investigate offences and bring offenders to book, where the offences are committed by persons with political connections and that in the North, despite the end of the conflict, significant issues of law and order remained. A number of politicians “operate on the fringe of the law”, it said and added that due to their interaction with criminal elements in society they subvert the course of justice by the undue influence exerted on the police resulting in the politicisation of the Police.

(Visit details in our Political Commentary )

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