Promises made following the Sri Lanka’s armed conflict; Governmental assistance to Sri Lanka with accountability, truth and reconciliation; Governmental support for the establishment of an Independent International War Crimes Inquiry to investigate the Civil War

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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO.: 633 (NW790E)

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 8-2012 OF 16 MARCH 2012

Mrs D Dudley (ACDP) to ask the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation:

  1. Whether, with reference to promises made by certain persons (names and details furnished) following the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict in May 2009, the Government has responded to the claims that the promises have remained unfulfilled; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details;

  2. whether the Government intends to play any role to assist Sri Lanka in matters regarding accountability, truth and reconciliation; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

  3. whether the Government intends to support calls for the establishment of an independent international war crimes inquiry to investigate the conduct of the final months of the civil war in Sri Lanka to help end a culture of impunity that is allegedly undermining human rights on the island if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

 REPLY

1. The South African Government has noted the report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to advise him on the joint commitment included in the statement issued by the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General at the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23 May 2009. In the Joint statement, the Secretary-General “underlined the importance of an accountability process” and the Government of Sri Lanka agreed that “it will take measures to address these grievances”.  The Panel’s mandate was to advise the Secretary-General on the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience relevant to an accountability process, having regard to the nature and scope of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The Panel, in presenting its report to the United Nations Secretary-General, found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

2. The South African Government has offered to share its experiences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) processes with the Government of Sri Lanka on numerous occasions. The latest offer was conveyed during the most recent visit to South Africa of the Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs, Professor GL Peiris, from 4 - 6 March 2012, during which he met both the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mrs Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim.

South Africa continues to encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in the same spirit as South Africa implemented the TRC processes

3. Following the release of the LLRC Report which the South African Government welcomed, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, on 30 January 2012, in a media statement highlighted its concerns that the LLRC Report should have addressed in more detail, the question of holding those people responsible for human rights violations, to account. 

South Africa also welcomed and commended the Sri Lankan Government for setting up an authoritative mechanism on accountability to further investigate allegations relating to human rights abuses. South Africa encouraged decisive action by the Government of Sri Lanka upon the findings. 

Following the visit of the Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs to South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in a media statement on 7 March 2012, again referred to the need for the speedy implementation of the LLRC Report, as well as the setting up of an impartial, inclusive and transparent mechanism to deal decisively with questions of accountability and justice.

The South African Government firmly believes that domestic accountability issues must first and foremost be sought at the national level. It remains the sovereign responsibility of States to determine what their judicial mechanisms are in ensuring accountability. This viewpoint was also reiterated in a media statement during the visit of Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim to Sri Lanka in November 2011.

It is the view of the South African Government that the internal judicial processes in Sri Lanka in terms of ensuring accountability have not yet been fully exhausted and that the establishment of an independent international war crimes inquiry to investigate the conduct of the final months of the civil war in Sri Lanka, is therefore premature.

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