Victims’ access to justice in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society looks at remedies available for victims of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law

On 15 and 16 July 2006, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation Law and Society Trust (LST), together with the International Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), organized a workshop on "Seeking Justice in Sri Lanka: national and international remedies for victims of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law" in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This training and information workshop took place in the context of widespread impunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular for crimes of enforced disappearances and torture, as well as in the context of the internal conflict reaching levels unseen since 2002. The failings of the national judicial system to effectively address those crimes were examined and the workshop explored the full range of national and international mechanisms available.

National and international experts provided an overview of international human rights instruments and instruments of international humanitarian law and their implementation into Sri Lankan law. The system and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were discussed, as well as the United Nations treaty bodies and the use of the universal jurisdiction mechanism, in particular for crimes of disappearances and torture. The presentations on victims’ rights before the ICC and on the interest and challenges of ratification of the ICC Statute by Sri Lanka led to very fruitful discussions on victims’ access to justice in Sri Lanka and the possibilities for future incorporation of progressive provisions of the Rome Statute on victims’ participation, protection and reparation into national law.

The participants in this workshop agreed on the following main recommendations and conclusions:
- the creation of a network of human rights NGOs and activists, victims organisations, lawyers, academics, students, trade unions and other interested persons aiming at the ratification of the Rome Statute by Sri Lanka
- the organisation of training sessions on the ICC system, independently or as part of education activities on human rights
- the translation into Sinhala and Tamil of important material and documents on the ICC
- the need to explore the full range of tools and international justice mechanisms available to victims of human rights violations and crimes under international humanitarian law
- the need for training on international justice mechanisms
- the need to push for bringing the national legislation in line with human rights and international humanitarian law standards

In addition, the FIDH delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who expressed their will to organise training for government officials on the ICC and who committed themselves to re-launch an interministerial working group on the ICC. FIDH will be following the implementation of these commitments with interest.

A report of the workshop is available in English and in Sinhala and Tamil very soon.

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