Feb 15, Colombo: The Human Rights Watch says the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must ask the visiting Sri Lankan Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe some hard questions about how the Sri Lankan government will provide accountability to victims of war and their families.
In an article to Lowy Interpreter, Elaine Pearson, Australia Director of Human Rights Watch said "Let's hope that beyond friendly cricket matches, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asks some hard questions about how the Sri Lankan government will provide accountability to victims and their families, still awaiting justice seven years after the horrific end to the country's long civil war."
Pearson said the Sri Lankan government agreed to a 2015 United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that mandates the creation various transitional justice mechanisms and noted that there was a positive change in approach, and next month the Sri Lankan government is due to report on what progress it has made.
Highlighting the number of positive developments in Sri Lanka, Pearson said while progress has been made in many areas, key commitments have not been met such as repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
"The government has still not put forward a plan to provide redress for those unjustly detained under that law," she said.
"Large tracts of land remain under military control, primarily in the predominantly ethnic Tamil north and east. Delays plague the creation of the Office of Missing Persons. Above all, there has been no tangible progress in setting up courts with international involvement to bring to trial those responsible for serious wartime violations," the Australia Director of HRW wrote.
While pointing out that international community will be interested in knowing whether Australia supports human rights in the Asia-Pacific region as it vies for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council in 2018-2020, Pearson said "Turnbull should urge Wickremesinghe to ensure that victims - who have given testimony to several official commissions, braved surveillance and threats, and waited for information about missing loved ones - get the answers they have long been seeking, and that it happens as soon as possible."
The HRW Australia director suggested the Australian PM to help Sri Lanka in including foreign judges and prosecutors in the accountability mechanisms for wartime abuses to ensure independence and impartiality.
"Given Australia's long friendly relations and Commonwealth status, Wickremesinghe might just accept it," the HRW Australia director said.