The South Asian Centre for Legal Studies was founded with the objective of advancing Transitional Justice and the global rule of law in Sri Lanka.

Bulletins

Tweets

RT @isalassee: Fascinating research project by @kirstenainley and @MarkKersten on the impact of #hybridcourts https://t.co/L9mJsdvCbe
RT @CanHCSriLanka: @TransparencyMV @EyesAbroad @RightsGAC @SAPRILKA @MDN_mv @SDJF_lk @Hemanthig @generation_sl @CPASL @groundviews @ONURgov…
For more information about the #OMP Act see our FAQs in all three languages https://t.co/IodGthgPlS
The #OMP Act will be brought into operation with effect 15th September.
15th September as the date of OMP operationalization. https://t.co/wE2E9OWZnh #OMP #TJ #LK
RT @ThyagiR: #Zeid updates #HRC36 on human rights issues in 40 countries, including #SriLanka #lka @UNHumanRights https://t.co/p18bqx9vQn h…
Download our August Bulletin at: https://t.co/bqfq3dV3ZG #tj #lk https://t.co/tleJSbBQ36
SACLS' recommendations to amend victim and #witnessprotection Act : https://t.co/fyjMewXFmt #lka #sl #srilanka
RT @UN_DPA: .@antonioguterres's letter to #UNSC President on #Myanmar calls for concerted international efforts to prevent further escalati…
#Myanmar government restricts humanitarian access to affected areas amidst increased violence against #Rohingya https://t.co/9uwWzDOKgE
  • Call for Papers - “Assessing the Political, Social and Economic Impact of Prosecutions for International Crimes in Transitioning Societies”

    The South Asian Centre for Legal Studies will be hosting a conference on the title “Assessing the Political, Social and Economic Impact of Prosecutions for International Crimes in Transitioning Societies” in December 2017. The Conference will see paper presentations and quality discussions aimed at informing contemporary policy debates in the country about the long-term political, social and economic impact of prosecutions for international crimes. Applicants are invited to send in their proposals (500 words) with a summary biography to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 15 September 2017. Participation will be confirmed on 1 October 2017 (suitable proposals may be confirmed as soon as they come in). Papers may be co-authored by multiple individuals. International flights to, and accommodation in, Colombo will be covered by SACLS for a limited number of participants.Draft papers/ presentations must be submitted by 15 December 2017. An anthology of selected papers will be published before 1 June 2018. All papers will be peer reviewed before publication.

    For sub themes and more information please see the attachment

     

Blog

blog submit

In the media

நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

08 April 2017
நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

2009 ஆம் ஆண்டு யுத்தம் முடிவடைந்ததையடுத்து, யுத்தகாலத்தில் இடம்பெற்ற விடயங்கள் சம்பந்தமாக வகைப்பொறுப்பு கூறுவதற்கும் அத்துடன் நல்லிணக்கத்தை தோற்றுவிப்...

FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

23 March 2017
FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

On March 24th, human rights activists and victims’ groups worldwide will commemorate International Day for the Dignity of Victims, in honour of victim...

AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTE...

17 March 2017
AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTECTION ACTIVITIES: PART III

Organisational structures for witness protection Structurally, witness protection programmes could exist in a number of different forms. Countries oft...

OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTI...

16 March 2017
OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION WITHIN TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: PART II

The previous article in this serial titled Contextualising Victim and Witness Protection for Transitional Justice discussed three key considerations w...

CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR...

14 March 2017
CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE - PART I

Introduction Since the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been pushed to address issues relating to wartime accountability and reconciliation withi...

The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

22 February 2017
The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

Unless we evolve substantive way to talk about justice for atrocity crimes, the emotive aspects of the debate will continue to take precedence with ve...

உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்ப...

18 February 2017
உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்படுத்துவது நீதியை மறுப்பதற்காகவா?

ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மனித உரிமைகள் பேரவையின் அமர்விற்கு இன்னமும் ஒரு மாதகாலத்திற்கு சற்றே அதிகமான காலப்பகுதியே இருக்கின்றது. இந்த அமர்வில் ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மன...

நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

18 January 2017
நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

இலங்கை, நல்லாட்சி ​அரசாங்கத்தின் இரண்டாவது வருடத்தை கடந்துள்ள இத்தருணத்தில் மனிதர்களுக்கெதிரான அட்டூழியங்கள் நிறைந்த குற்றச்செயல்கள் சார்ந்ததாக வகைபொற...

Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan...

22 September 2016
Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan Law: The Need for Legislative Reform

 In a paper published recently, Eleanor Vermunt and I argued that international crimes must be incorporated into Sri Lankan law with retroactive...

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර...

07 May 2016
සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර්යභාරය

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය සහ මාධ්‍ය පිළිබඳව කතා කරන විට, මාධ්‍ය ප්‍රධාන භූමිකා ද්විත්වයක් රඟ දක්වයි. පළමු අවස්ථාවේදී මාධ්‍ය යනු සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්ති ක්‍රියාවල...

Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what...

21 April 2016
Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what is the need of the hour?

The historic electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa—an unabashed nationalist strongman—at the hands of President Maithripala Sirisena in Janu...

Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in T...

20 April 2016
Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in Transitional Justice

On a recent visit to the United States, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera made a revealing series of comments in response to a question at a forum...

« »

In the media

நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

08 April 2017
நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

2009 ஆம் ஆண்டு யுத்தம் முடிவடைந்ததையடுத்து, யுத்தகாலத்தில் இடம்பெற்ற விடயங்கள் சம்பந்தமாக வகைப்பொறுப்பு கூறுவதற்கும் அத்துடன் நல்லிணக்கத்தை தோற்றுவிப்...

FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

23 March 2017
FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

On March 24th, human rights activists and victims’ groups worldwide will commemorate International Day for the Dignity of Victims, in honour of victim...

AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTE...

17 March 2017
AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTECTION ACTIVITIES: PART III

Organisational structures for witness protection Structurally, witness protection programmes could exist in a number of different forms. Countries oft...

OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTI...

16 March 2017
OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION WITHIN TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: PART II

The previous article in this serial titled Contextualising Victim and Witness Protection for Transitional Justice discussed three key considerations w...

CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR...

14 March 2017
CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE - PART I

Introduction Since the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been pushed to address issues relating to wartime accountability and reconciliation withi...

The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

22 February 2017
The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

Unless we evolve substantive way to talk about justice for atrocity crimes, the emotive aspects of the debate will continue to take precedence with ve...

உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்ப...

18 February 2017
உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்படுத்துவது நீதியை மறுப்பதற்காகவா?

ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மனித உரிமைகள் பேரவையின் அமர்விற்கு இன்னமும் ஒரு மாதகாலத்திற்கு சற்றே அதிகமான காலப்பகுதியே இருக்கின்றது. இந்த அமர்வில் ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மன...

நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

18 January 2017
நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

இலங்கை, நல்லாட்சி ​அரசாங்கத்தின் இரண்டாவது வருடத்தை கடந்துள்ள இத்தருணத்தில் மனிதர்களுக்கெதிரான அட்டூழியங்கள் நிறைந்த குற்றச்செயல்கள் சார்ந்ததாக வகைபொற...

Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan...

22 September 2016
Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan Law: The Need for Legislative Reform

 In a paper published recently, Eleanor Vermunt and I argued that international crimes must be incorporated into Sri Lankan law with retroactive...

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර...

07 May 2016
සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර්යභාරය

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය සහ මාධ්‍ය පිළිබඳව කතා කරන විට, මාධ්‍ය ප්‍රධාන භූමිකා ද්විත්වයක් රඟ දක්වයි. පළමු අවස්ථාවේදී මාධ්‍ය යනු සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්ති ක්‍රියාවල...

Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what...

21 April 2016
Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what is the need of the hour?

The historic electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa—an unabashed nationalist strongman—at the hands of President Maithripala Sirisena in Janu...

Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in T...

20 April 2016
Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in Transitional Justice

On a recent visit to the United States, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera made a revealing series of comments in response to a question at a forum...

« »

In the media

நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

08 April 2017
நிலைமாறுகால நீதியை நிலைநாட்டுவதிலுள்ள சவால்கள்

2009 ஆம் ஆண்டு யுத்தம் முடிவடைந்ததையடுத்து, யுத்தகாலத்தில் இடம்பெற்ற விடயங்கள் சம்பந்தமாக வகைப்பொறுப்பு கூறுவதற்கும் அத்துடன் நல்லிணக்கத்தை தோற்றுவிப்...

FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

23 March 2017
FORGETTING THE PAST: A WARNING

On March 24th, human rights activists and victims’ groups worldwide will commemorate International Day for the Dignity of Victims, in honour of victim...

AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTE...

17 March 2017
AUTONOMY AND DECENTRALIZATION WITHIN WITNESS PROTECTION ACTIVITIES: PART III

Organisational structures for witness protection Structurally, witness protection programmes could exist in a number of different forms. Countries oft...

OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTI...

16 March 2017
OPERATIONAL MODELS FOR VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION WITHIN TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: PART II

The previous article in this serial titled Contextualising Victim and Witness Protection for Transitional Justice discussed three key considerations w...

CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR...

14 March 2017
CONTEXTUALIZING VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION FOR TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE - PART I

Introduction Since the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has been pushed to address issues relating to wartime accountability and reconciliation withi...

The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

22 February 2017
The problem with ‘justice as reconciliation’

Unless we evolve substantive way to talk about justice for atrocity crimes, the emotive aspects of the debate will continue to take precedence with ve...

உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்ப...

18 February 2017
உண்மையை கண்டறியும் ஆணைக்குழு: அரசாங்கம் முதன்மைப்படுத்துவது நீதியை மறுப்பதற்காகவா?

ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மனித உரிமைகள் பேரவையின் அமர்விற்கு இன்னமும் ஒரு மாதகாலத்திற்கு சற்றே அதிகமான காலப்பகுதியே இருக்கின்றது. இந்த அமர்வில் ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் மன...

நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

18 January 2017
நீதி இல்லாமல் நிலைமாறுகால நீதியா?

இலங்கை, நல்லாட்சி ​அரசாங்கத்தின் இரண்டாவது வருடத்தை கடந்துள்ள இத்தருணத்தில் மனிதர்களுக்கெதிரான அட்டூழியங்கள் நிறைந்த குற்றச்செயல்கள் சார்ந்ததாக வகைபொற...

Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan...

22 September 2016
Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan Law: The Need for Legislative Reform

 In a paper published recently, Eleanor Vermunt and I argued that international crimes must be incorporated into Sri Lankan law with retroactive...

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර...

07 May 2016
සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය | ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය ජන මාධ්‍යයේ කාර්යභාරය

සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තිය සහ මාධ්‍ය පිළිබඳව කතා කරන විට, මාධ්‍ය ප්‍රධාන භූමිකා ද්විත්වයක් රඟ දක්වයි. පළමු අවස්ථාවේදී මාධ්‍ය යනු සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්ති ක්‍රියාවල...

Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what...

21 April 2016
Media and transitional justice in Sri Lanka: what is the need of the hour?

The historic electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa—an unabashed nationalist strongman—at the hands of President Maithripala Sirisena in Janu...

Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in T...

20 April 2016
Questions of Haste, Urgency and Consultations in Transitional Justice

On a recent visit to the United States, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera made a revealing series of comments in response to a question at a forum...

« »
In the Media

Despite land grabbing being a common feature of many armed conflicts and an integral part of discriminatory policies against minority groups, it is insufficiently addressed in post-conflict or transitional justice accountability processes. While truth-commissions, in particular the Truth Commission in El Salvador, have highlighted that land confiscation often constitutes a root cause and a long lasting consequence of armed conflicts, these acts are generally not considered as international crimes and therefore not prosecuted as such. This has granted a measure of impunity to the practice. However, recent developments seem to indicate a growing acceptance that land grabbing may in itself constitute an international crime. This is the result of persistent activism on this issue in places such as Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

In 2014, a law firm submitted a Communication to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor on behalf of Cambodian victims of land grabbing. The Communication argues that violent acts such as forcible transfers of population, murder, illegal imprisonment, persecution and other inhuman acts committed since July 2002 in the context of large scale illegal expropriation of land constituted crimes against humanity. While the submission does not allege that the expropriation itself was an underlying act of crimes against humanity, it links the expropriation of land to the commission of international crimes. It thereby draws international attention to the issue and to the plight of 77,000 people forcibly and illegally displaced.

A few months prior to the submission of the Communication to the ICC in the Cambodian case, a report on Sri Lanka went further and argued that the confiscation and illegal occupation of private land in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka amounted per se to crimes against humanity. The report published by the Sri Lankan Campaign for Peace and Justice in March 2014 and authored by SACLS argues that the illegal acquisition and occupation of private land by the military up to 2014 led to severe violations of fundamental rights of thousands of Tamils from this Province. It further highlights the systematic and widespread nature of the land occupation and argues that it was carried out pursuant to a state policy and on a discriminatory basis. The report therefore concludes that the illegal occupation of private land by the military in this province constituted the crime against humanity of persecution.

Even though the claim made by the report on Sri Lanka may have appeared a stretch at the time, it was supported by legal precedent. In fact, the ICTY Trial and Appeal chambers in Blaskic recognized that that persecution may include forms of confiscation or destruction of private dwellings or businesses. New developments at the ICC this month further lend credence to this position. In a policy paper on ‘Case selection and Prioritization’, the ICC Prosecutor’s Office committed to “give particular consideration to prosecuting Rome Statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, [...] the illegal dispossession of land. The policy paper therefore recognizes that international crimes are not confined to mass violations of bodily integrity and can be committed through the illegal dispossession of land. It further reasserts the importance of combatting impunity for crimes of this nature. This is particularly significant in countries like Sri Lanka where the perception that land dispossession is a mere rights violation and may not amount to criminal conduct is directly linked to impunity for the practice. While some private lands previously occupied by the military have been released since 2015, thousands of acres of private land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces are still occupied by the military. It is therefore important that Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka deals specifically with the issue of land grabbing and does so with the explicit aim of bringing an end to the practice and holding accountable those responsible for these crimes.

Published in Blog

Our recent paper “Fitting the Bill: Incorporating International Crimes into Sri Lankan Law” argues that no meaningful prosecution of atrocity crimes of the type alleged in Sri Lanka can take place without incorporating international crimes and corresponding modes of liability—including JCE, ordering, and command and superior responsibility—into Sri Lankan law.

It argues that domestic crimes are fundamentally ill suited to deal with wartime abuses and violations that occurred as a result of the conduct of hostilities. In fact, if ordinary crimes were to be applied, some conduct may be deemed criminal under Sri Lankan law even if it was in compliance with IHL. On the other hand, some egregious violations of IHL that evidenced an absolute disregard for civilian lives cannot be prosecuted because there are no corresponding offences under Sri Lankan law. Further, the prosecution of international crimes as ordinary crimes is deeply inadequate as it does not reflect the gravity of the criminal conduct, and risks trivializing atrocity crimes. Even if such conduct were to be prosecuted as domestic offences, such prosecutions would not serve a deterrent purpose or establish a narrative about the gravity of the crimes that were perpetrated.

In addition, prosecuting atrocity crimes as domestic crimes on the basis of the domestic modes of liability does not allow for the prosecution of those most responsible for these crimes. International law recognizes that those most responsible must be held accountable for atrocity crimes. These are crimes which are committed on a widespread and systematic basis or in the specific context of an armed conflict. In either case, those most responsible are those who had the means to design, carry out or facilitate the commission of international crimes. In doing so, they often abuse a position of authority or fail to fulfill the duties attached to their hierarchical position. The paper claims that unless international crimes and modes of liability are incorporated into Sri Lankan law, individuals most responsible for crimes cannot be effectively prosecuted. Instead, any prosecutions—if conducted under existing Sri Lankan law—would likely focus on those lower down the chain of command and on ‘trigger pullers’ who carried out orders received from their superiors. Prosecuting these individuals rather than those in positions of leadership will fail to meet victims’ demands for justice, undermine public support for trials and breed resentment among the fighting cadre of the armed forces.

Published in Blog