AUGUST 2017

TJ INSIGHT

President Sirisena and his government’s complete lack of interest in fostering the search for the truth and securing justice for victims of grave human rights and humanitarian law violations was starkly apparent during the month of August 2017. August 4th marked the eleventh anniversary of the infamous killing of 17 aid workers from the international non-governmental organisation Action Contre La Faim (ACF). Although the Udalagama Commission of Inquiry of 2006 investigated this incident, its findings were not conclusive and it recommended further investigations. Eleven years on, the search for truth and justice in relation to this single emblematic case remains elusive. The government’s general lack of interest to decisively make progress on the post-war accountability agenda was also reflected in a statement made by the newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana on August 18th. Significantly, the Foreign Minister stressed that Sri Lanka was under no pressure to implement UNHRC resolution 30/1 and could request additional time to deliver on its commitments. He also reiterated that the country’s Constitution bars foreign judges from participating in a local judicial process; a claim SACLS has disputed in the past. On August 29th, human rights groups filed a lawsuit against former Sri Lankan general Jagath Jayasuriya in Brazil where he served as the Sri Lankan ambassador. Following Jayasuriya’s precipitated return to Sri Lanka, President Sirisena asserted that no war heroes would be prosecuted before an international war crime tribunal during his presidency. The general bad faith on the part of the government has virtually grounded transitional justice to a halt, with even the high powered Cabinet Committee tasked with coordinating and monitoring the implementation of Resolution 30/1, reportedly not having convened since its establishment two months back.

In the backdrop of all these developments, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was observed globally on the 30th of this month. In Sri Lanka, families of disappeared persons marked their 192nd continuous day of silent protests – demanding answers about their loved ones – on this date of commemoration.

WHAT’S NEW

ARTICLES

• ‘The Way Forward After War Crimes Charges’ by Jehan Perera on 9/4/2017

• ‘Why a Sri Lankan leader might be tried for war crimes in Brazil’ by Kate Cronin-Furman, Washington Post on 8/30/2017

• ‘We vehemently refuse to be deceived again: Protests by families of disappeared, continuing abductions and empty promises’ by Ruki Fernando, Groundviews on 8/30/2017

• ‘Sri Lanka Monitoring Accountability Panel to Release a Thematic Report Addressing Alternative Avenues for Redress and Accountability’ by Sri Lanka Brief on 9/1/2017

• ‘Sri Lanka Must Deliver on Its Commitments Set Out by Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1’ by Amnesty International on 8/22/2017

• ‘In Postwar Sri Lanka, Hope Fades for Families of the Disappeared’ by Shreen Saroor and Mytili Bala, World Politics Review on 8/29/2017

• ‘Open Letter to UNSG Antonio Guterres From War Affected North & East of Sri Lanka’ by Sri Lanka Brief on 8/30/2017

• ‘අතුරුදහන් කිරීම් නැවත සිදු නොවන්නට නම්, ඔවුන්ට ‘යුක්තිය’ ඉටුකළ යුතුමය!’ by Vikalpa on 8/30/2017

• ‘වින්දිතයන් හා සාක්ෂිකරුවන් ආරක්ෂාකිරීම පිළිබඳ පනත 'නරියන්ට කුකුලන් භාර දීමක්ද?’ by Saranee Gunathilake, Samabima in August 2017

PUBLICATIONS

• ‘No More “Missing Persons”: The Criminalization of Enforced Disappearance in South Asia’ by International Commission of Jurists in August 2017

EVENTS

• ‘Commemoration of victims of Enforced Disappearances’ – Families of the Disappeared, 30th August 2017

AMENDING THE VICTIM AND WITNESS PROTECTION ACT - SUBMISSION BY THE SOUTH ASIAN CENTRE FOR LEGAL STUDIES

 Pursuant to a call for recommendations by a Committee established to review the Victim and Witness Protection Act, SACLS submitted a document suggesting amendments to the following provisions in the Act. Below are the main recommendations. Other recommendations were made, with a view to strengthen the protection afforded by the Act and to emphasize the Act’s relevance within the transitional justice process.
For the full submission including the explanations for the recommendations, visit: http://sacls.org/blog/amending-the-victim-and-witness-protection-act-submission-by-the-south-asian-centre-for-legal-studies

• SECTION 12 OF THE ACT Remove all ex officio appointees to the Board of Management of the Authority and grant the Authority with specific powers to convene a high-level working group with representatives from relevant ministries.

• SECTION 19 OF THE ACT State that the Authority shall appoint the Head of the Victim and Witness Protection Division.

• SECTION 18(3) OF THE ACT All sums of money required to defray expenditure incurred by the Authority and the Division in the exercise and performance of its duties and functions under this Act, shall be paid out of the Fund of the Authority.

• SECTION 20(4) AND SECTION 25 OF THE ACT State that the provision of protection and assistance to a victim or witness by the Victim and Witness Protection Division (section 20(4)), a Court or Commission (section 25) shall be based on;

(a) The existence of threats to the victim’s or witness’ life and/or property,
(b) The foreseeability of acts of reprisal or intimidation, or the fact that acts of reprisal or intimidation have already been carried out against the victim or witness,
(c) The victim or witness’ personality, personal situation and psychological fitness to receive various protection measures,
(d) The seriousness of the offence to which the victim’s or witness’ statement or evidence relates.

• REPEAL SECTION 24(2)(C) AND SECTION 24(3) OF THE ACT AND REPLACE SECTION 24(3) The Authority, the Division or a Commission shall have the capacity to solicit or obtain any assistance from any foreign government or national, foreign or international organization, in providing assistance or protection to a victim of crime or a witness.

• SECTION 14(1) OF THE ACT The Authority shall have the power to review a decision made by the Victim and Witness Division in terms of Section 20(3) to refuse admission of a victim or witness into the Division’s Victims of Crime and Witnesses Assistance and Protection Programme or terminate protection.

• SECTION 25(3) OF THE ACT The protection and assistance that may be provided under subsection (1) may include:—
(a) the adoption of special measures to protect the rights of children and to ensure the best interests of child victims of crime and child witnesses as well as victims and witnesses of sexual and gender based violence and other vulnerable victims and witnesses.

In This Issue