NEW YORK, NY 10017

Dear Secretary-General,

On behalf of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, I write to express our appreciation for your perseverance in convening the Panel of Experts to advise you on accountability issues in Sri Lanka, and to ask that you do all that is within your power to ensure that the Panel’s recommendations are implemented.

We believe that the Panel did a commendable job within a relatively short time and under difficult circumstances. Its report demonstrates clearly that there are “credible allegations” that both sides committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity during the final stages of the civil war, and makes a persuasive case for an independent international mechanism to investigate these allegations. It also reveals with clarity the blatant attempts by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to avoid dealing with the allegations. GoSL methods include setting up a flawed and toothless domestic Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, carrying out a campaign of denial abroad, and silencing dissenters at home.

The GoSL will no doubt continue to try to prevent the Panel’s recommendations from being implemented. It will also continue to market its appalling conduct as a model for defeating terrorism, as demonstrated by its attempt to host an international seminar on this topic for foreign militaries next week. Behind the scenes, the GoSL will seek to invoke solidarity amongst the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) by disingenuously presenting the Panel’s report as an assault on its sovereignty.

We therefore urge you to do all that is in your power – including by working with the Human Rights Council and the Security Council – to push for the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations. In particular, we urge you to make the Panel’s call for an independent mechanism a high priority since, without it, little if any real accountability will be achieved.

We urge you, as a first step, to submit the report formally to the Human Rights Council, with a letter of transmission requesting a process for implementing its recommendations. The letter could suggest that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights be required to consult with relevant Special Procedure mandate holders and then report back to the Human Rights Council on proposed working procedures and an organisational structure for an effective international institutional mechanism that would address the three concurrent functions for the mechanism that are set out in its report. A second step that we would ask you to consider is to propose that the Security Council be briefed by the Panel of Experts and by relevant UN Special Rapporteurs.

The powerful statement in favour of the Panel’s recommendations by the African National Congress, South Africa’s governing party, reproduced below as an appendix, demonstrates that support for such steps would not come from Western Member States alone. The ANC knows from experience the damage that ethnic conflict and repressive structures of government can bring, and that a lasting peace requires truth as well as reconciliation.

Should the United Nations permit Sri Lanka’s unlawful and morally unjustifiable approach to accountability to prevail, it would be endorsing the deeply troubling trend in recent years to sacrifice human rights on the altar of counter-terrorism — an approach that is ultimately counter-productive. A peace built on denial of truth and continuing abuse of human rights simply will not last.

We very much hope that you will continue to show leadership by rejecting impunity and pursuing accountability – in Sri Lanka and in all other cases crying out for truth, justice and sustainable reconciliation.

Yours sincerely,
Edward Mortimer,
Chair, Advisory Council,
Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice
Grayston House 28 Charles Sq, London, N1 6HT