|Sri Lanka: Presentation by Deputy Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda|
|Wednesday, 14 May 2008|
Universal Periodic Review of Sri LankaDuring Sri Lanka’s first ever Universal Periodic Review carried out by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 13th of May 2008, several members and observer States of the Human Rights Council made enquiries and comments on the functioning of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) established to investigate and inquire into serious violations of human rights, on the departure of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) and on the proposed law to provide assistance and protection to victims of crime and witnesses. Responding to enquiries and questions raised, Mr. Yasantha Kodagoda, Deputy Solicitor General stated as follows :
Mr. President,The distinguished representative of Canada stated in his presentation that during the public inquiry conducted by the Commission of Inquiry into the killing of 17 aid workers of the French NGO ACF, evidence implicating members of the government and security forces had surfaced. Mr. President, I must emphatically state that, no such evidence has surfaced up to this point of time. Mr. President may I most respectfully request distinguish representatives and others to be restrained in arriving at conclusions and publicly announcing such conclusions, regarding culpability by various groups and individuals for having committed human rights violations, particularly since investigations and inquiries by the independent Commission of Inquiry into the several high profile cases including the killing of the 17 ACF workers and the killing of 5 youth in Trincomalee, are yet to be concluded. Mr. President, let me assure you that all cases involving human rights violations will continue to be impartially and comprehensively investigated and inquired into by the several agencies entrusted with that task including the CoI, and their findings made public and perpetrators prosecuted in court.
Mr. President, several distinguished representatives inquired about the International Independent Group of Eminent Person (IIGEP) appointed by Sri Lanka’s President to observe the functioning of the Commission of Inquiry established to investigate and inquire into serious violations of Human Rights. Mr. President, it is incumbent on me to state that the IIGEP was not established to monitor the overall situation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Its mandate was to only observe the functioning of the CoI, and to comment on its observance with internationally accepted norms and standards. Mr. President, it is unfortunate that, certain Members of the IIGEP who were seldom present at sessions of the CoI, proceeded to comment publicly on matters outside the mandate of the IIGEP. However, it is my duty to submit to you the concluding comments made by the Chairman of the IIGEP – the former Chief Justice of India the Hon. Justice P.N. Bhagawatie. Mr. President, Justice Bhagwatie in a written communication dated 26th April 2008 stated that, I quote - “The IIGEP has not accused the GoSL of any lack of political will in so far as the functioning of the CoI is concerned. In so far as the Commission of Inquiry is concerned, it has been doing very good work and Members of the IIGEP have had the best of cooperation from the Chairman and Members of the CoI. I have no doubt that the CoI will continue to carry on its work with the same zeal and dedication as it has been doing so far.” Unquote. Mr. President, the Commission of Inquiry continues to function independently and is presently engaged in the conduct of public inquiries into two high profile cases.
Mr. President, a distinguished delegate requested information regarding the scope of the proposed Victims and Witnesses Assistance and Protection law. Mr. President, I wish to state that, once enacted the new law will set in place a legislative framework to provide assistance and protection to not only victims of conventional crimes and witnesses of such incidents. I will specifically facilitate the providing of assistance and protection to victims of human rights violations and witnesses of such violations. The proposed law which has received constitutional clearance from the Supreme Court and is now before Parliament, will provide an efficacious mechanism to protect victims and witnesses from possible reprisals, retaliations, intimidation, various forms of harassment, and other harm. The proposed law will also establish a mechanism for the payment of compensation to victims of crime and human rights violations, and would also facilitate the providing of treatment, including medical treatment, rehabilitation and counselling. Further, the proposed law will enable courts, commissions and the national regulatory authority to in extra-ordinary situations, take into consideration particular vulnerabilities of certain victims and witnesses, and ensure that their protection is provided by various independent agencies without necessarily relying on the police and the security forces.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 June 2008 )|
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