AFP – Sri Lanka has failed to deliver on its international commitments to prosecute government troops and Tamil rebels for atrocities committed during its ethnic war, a UN expert said Friday.
Ben Emmerson said Colombo’s efforts at transitional justice were at a "virtual standstill" eight years after the end of its ethnic war which had claimed over 100,000 lives.
"None of the measures so far adopted to fulfil Sri Lanka’s transitional justice commitments are adequate to ensure real progress," Emmerson told reporters in Colombo during an official visit to assess progress.
"There is little evidence that perpetrators of war crimes committed by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are being brought to justice," said Emmerson, a UN special rapporteur on human rights.
Sri Lanka narrowly avoided sanctions when a new government came to power in January 2015 promising investigations into war-time atrocities, which the previous regime refused to even acknowledge.
The new administration of President Maithripala Sirisena secured more time from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to deliver justice, ensure reconciliation and prevent the island slipping back to ethnic strife.
But Emmerson said "retrograde elements" within the armed forces and the coalition government were stalling and expressed fears of a return to ethnic conflict.
"My plea to the government and the people of Sri Lanka is… not to allow the process to be diverted by retrograde elements in the security establishment and their allies in government," he said.
Sri Lankan forces were accused of killing up to 40,000 Tamil civilians during the final months of the war while defeating separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas who fought for independence.
International rights groups have called the prosecution of both the military as well as the Tigers, who were known for their trademark suicide bombings and child soldiers.
"The government has thus far done almost nothing to hold to account those members of the armed forces and security services who committed gross human rights violations during and since the conflict," he said.
Emmerson also called for the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
He said 12 suspects had been held under the PTA without trial for over 10 years, and another 70 had been held for over five years.