ICJ, US & UN Human Rights Chief Condemn Release of Sri Lankan Soldier over massacre of Tamils

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said the pardon of a Sri Lankan soldier after he was found guilty for massacring Tamils, is an “affront to victims” and “further undermines the limited progress the country has made towards ending impunity for mass human rights abuse,” in a statement released on 27 March 2020.

“We are troubled by reports that the convicted perpetrator of the Mirusuvil massacre, in Sri Lanka, has received a Presidential Pardon and was released from jail this week,” said a statement from the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville.

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“This was one of the rare human rights cases from the decades long conflict that had ever reached conviction,” he added.

“The Presidential pardon is an affront to victims and yet another example of the failure of Sri Lanka to fulfil its international human rights obligations to provide meaningful accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights. Victims of such violations and crimes have the right to a remedy. This includes equal and effective access to justice and reparation, and that perpetrators serve a punishment that is proportionate to the seriousness of their conduct.”

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“Pardoning one of the sole convicted perpetrators of atrocities committed during the Sri Lankan conflict further undermines the limited progress the country has made towards ending impunity for mass human rights abuse,” Colville concluded.

The release of Sunil Ratnayake has sparked widespread condemnation.

Rathnayake was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of the 8 Tamils, including 2 children, in the town of Mirusuvil. The Tamils had been arrested by Sri Lankan security forces on the10th of December 2000. The following day their bodies were found in a mass grave with their throats slashed, according to the District Medical Officer’s post-mortem report. All but two of the bodies had been stripped naked. The youngest to have been murdered was a 5-year-old child. The killings have since been dubbed the Mirusuvil massacre.

Ponnathurai Maheswaran, who managed to survive and escape from the army, testified in court and identified at least five of the soldiers responsible. After a lengthy court process only Ratnayake, a member of the military’s elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), had been sentenced. The other men were cleared of all charges.

Read the UN High Commissioner full statement here

Pardon of Sri Lankan soldier is ‘deeply troubling’ – US

Meanwhile, The US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia condemned Sri Lanka’s pardon of a soldier who was convicted over the massacre of Tamils, calling it “deeply troubling”. In a tweet on Saturday, Alice Wells went on to state that “justice, accountability, and reconciliation are needed for long-term peace”

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Earlier this year, Wells visited Sri Lanka and met with the war crimes accused prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, stating that both Sri Lanka and the United States have “compelling shared interests”.

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Presidential pardon of former army officer a ‘blow to the victims’ says ICJ

On the ther hand, The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says that “The full pardon and extinguishment of serious punishment constitutes a blow to the victims of these violations,”.

“The prosecution of staff Sergeant Ratnayake for his involvement in the killing of civilians, including children, at Mirusuvil was a rare exception to the usual lack of accountability for human rights violations committed during the conflict,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

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The press release highlighted that “it is noteworthy that during his presidential campaign, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had made repeated pledges to release ‘war heroes languishing in prison over flase charges and cases’. The ICJ is deeply concerned that this presidential pardon may be the first of the many to come.”

Read the ICJ’s full statement here.

Credits : Tamil Guardian

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