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Inquiry must be credible with 'some degree of international involvement' - US

Updated 0700 GMT

Any investigation by Sri Lanka into mass atrocities committed at the end of the armed conflict must be credible to the international community and must have some degree of international involvement, said the US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Tom Malinowski, speaking to journalists in Trincomalee on Thursday.  

Elaborating on yesterday's statement by the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs that the US would work with Sri Lanka to table a resolution at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session and support a domestic process, Mr Malinowski said,

"The important thing is that there be a judicial process that is credible to the people of Sri Lanka and to the international community."

"For that process to be credible, I don’t think it has to be a completely international process, but it does have to be independent of political leadership."

"It has to be led by people who are trusted by the minority communities and it should have some degree of international involvement, even if it is a domestic process organized under the laws of Sri Lanka."

Mr Malinowski said in Colombo, in an earlier press conference, that,

“We support a domestic mechanism that will be credible to all of the affected communities in Sri Lanka... I would also add that international support for this process has been, and will continue to be important to building trust and confidence”.

Asked about the pressure the US would exert on Sri Lanka to continue with its promised reforms, Mr Malinowski stressed that the US would continue urging reforms after September too.

"The United States will sponsor another resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in September and we are not going to walk away from this process of encouraging reform and change after September."

"We very much hope that with the changes after January 8th, the new government will work with us and work with the United Nations on a real process of accountability and reconciliation... The international community will remain involved in that process.  It will continue to monitor that process."

"And as much as we are hopeful about the promises that the new government had made, we will judge it not by its promises but by its actions and achievements."

Earlier in the week, he stated “that the United States and the international community are not going to walk away from this in September, whatever the thrust of the resolution”.

“International support, international involvement will continue because that is also an important way to continue building confidence and trust and that in turn will be good for the government because it will enable the government to have the space and the time it needs to confront these very very difficult issues in a way that builds the broadest possible support within Sri Lankan society,” added Mr Malinowski.

His comments were reiterated by Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal during a Q&A in Comolmbo earlier this week, where she said “we look forward to a process in Geneva that allows an opportunity to reflect on the findings and the recommendations of the OISL report – which we don’t as of yet know – and to work collaboratively with the government of Sri Lanka, with the key constituencies to whom Assistant Secretary Malinowski alluded, and with interested parties in crafting a resolution that reflects the way forward”.

Ms Biswal also stated she met with members of the Tamil National Alliance, who swept polls in the North-East in the general elections last week. “We met with Mr. Sampanthan, with the Chief Minister Wigneswaran and other members of the TNA leadership,” she said.

“We heard from them on their concerns, their expectations, and they’ve been quite clear and quite public in their call for an international process and mechanism... We’ve reiterated again that we have been a strong voice for advancing issues of accountability and reconciliation and we will continue to be a strong voice.”

Asked about the ongoing issues of resettlement in the Tamil areas of Sampoor and Valikaamam, Mr Malinowski highlighted the military occupation of lands, stating that the quick release of land ought to happen quickly.

"Full justice will take time.  Reconciliation between communities will take time.  Changing the political culture, especially at the local level, will take time.  But some things ought to happen more quickly."

"It is possible for the Sri Lankan military to return land that was taken from people very quickly, and that is something we feel will build confidence and trust among the population.  It is something that we hope the government will encourage the military to do as quickly as possible."

See full transcript of the Trincomalee press conference here and Colombo press conference here.

Also see their full statements made at the American Centre in Colombo earlier this week here.

Related article: US to work with Sri Lanka towards UNHRC resolution and domestic inquiry (26 Aug 2015)