In the wake of the Consultative Task Force calling for foreign judges to hear war crime charges, a government minister said yesterday that President Maithripala Sirisena categorically ruled out the participation of foreign judges to hear or inquire into war crime allegations.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference at the President’s House, State Minister of Finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene reaffirmed the President's position. He said only logistical and IT assistance would be obtained to expedite the judicial process, when the judicial mechanism was set up to probe the alleged crimes.
Responding to journalists on the suggestions that had been made by the Consultative Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanism to include foreign judges in the judicial process that is to probe war crimes, Minister Yapa said President Sirisena was very clear on this matter and added he has more than once said there will be no foreign judges in the local judicial mechanism and it will not be a hybrid court as suggested by certain groups.
“President Sirisena and the government have full confidence in our judiciary, legal process and judges. We have extremely eminent and experienced judges and our judges have served in various countries and global organizations that have given much credit to the country.
Minister Yapa said Sri Lanka expects to submit a progress report to the UNHRC in March and explain the measures take by the unity government to promote reconciliation, rule of law, inter communal harmony and strengthen democratic institutions and the concept of good governance.
Sri Lanka’s Constitution or the Criminal Procedure Code do not provide for the establishment of a judicial mechanism with foreign judges to adjudicate alleged war crimes. As such the issue of establishing a so-called Hybrid Court does not arise and the government’s intention was to establish a credible domestic mechanism comprising of our own judges, acceptable to the local and global community.
“The government under no circumstances will target war heroes, field commanders of the three armed forces or the political leadership for war crime charges or haul them before a court or tribunal. But we have to deal with those if there are any, who have violated the International Humanitarian Law on an individual level,” he stressed. (Sandun A Jayasekera)