Legal academics opined that recent remarks by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) concerning Sri Lanka requiring a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice based on inclusive and meaningful engagement with all citizens could be interpreted as a call for the removal of barriers including legal impediments preventing such.
The UNHCHR also added that the different processes pursued in the implementation of the commitments laid out in the co-sponsored resolution would have to be done in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner.
Senior Lecturer at the Department of Commercial Law of the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo, Attorney-at-Law Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa observed that at present there were issues with regard to the criminal justice system particularly in relation to political prisoners.
Whether the language policy is meaningfully and correctly implemented is questionable, he said.
Access for employment is another issue to be addressed, he noted.
He added that apart from land use, which was an issue which needed to be dealt with separately, to what extent national security was going to be defined was also a problem, he added.
The proposed new Constitution would be favourable to the Government of Sri Lanka in this regard, he observed.
The issue of the missing persons needs to be solved prior to any transitional justice, he pointed out.
A methodology is essential, Dr. Mahanamahewa opined. “A change is needed in the legal framework in order to bring about post-war transitional justice. This is what the UNHCHR stated. This is why they did not pursue the hybrid court setup. A law that is a barrier and an impediment to this is the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA),” he said.
“ There is also pressure from the pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Diaspora. Under the PTA, there are those detained sans charges and another group less than 250 by number, against whom charges cannot be proven,” he added.
He added that certain laws must be repealed while the Evidence Ordinance and the Penal Code must be amended. Witnesses and victims protection must be strengthened.
“There is some repetition in the remarks. This may all be incorporated in the 2016 National Action Plan for Human Rights. The situation is such that this is yet another international obligation and burden placed on us. There is no system in place. Come October the situation could turn serious,” he explained.