A panel event on mass atrocities discussed the lack of progress made by Sri Lanka in the realm of transitional justice, in Washington DC last week.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Ferencz International Justice Initiative and the National Endowment for Democracy held an event on promoting justice for mass atrocities.
The panel, moderated by the Department of State's Ari Bassin and featuring Carlos Castresana Fernandez, Frances Harrison, J.S. Tissainayagam and Yasmin Sooka spoke on lessons learned from various areas of conflict, including Sri Lanka.
Former journalist and author Frances Harrison spoke on pending accountability measures. Military officials who had given commands in the final stages of the war have yet to be held accountable, while officials involved in war crimes are being given diplomatic positions and access to Green Cards. J.S. Tissainayagam, a journalist who was formerly detained by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka, explained that the government’s fear of public backlash against accountability is merely an excuse and added that there is rather a need for political will.
Looking ahead, measures taken within the security forces to prevent abuses cannot merely focus on training and capacity said Ms Harrison. Rather, changes within such institutions require political will and security sector reform.
Panelists also spoke about the issues surrounding the documentation and prosecution of sexual violence during conflict – namely the need to document crimes following protocols that enable successful international prosecution. Furthermore, the panel discussed the gendered stigmas for both male and female victims that act as barriers to coming forward.
The event concluded on the note that Sri Lanka like present day Colombia and many other post-war countries, must address the core issues in order to truly get to a state of non-reccurrence.