Persecution of War Crimes Witnesses and Victims Seeking Justice in Sri Lanka

By Together Against Genocide [TAG], Monday, September 07 2015
Introduction

The UN Human Rights Council investigation (OISL) into the crimes committed during the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in May 2009 is expected to present its findings to the UNHRC in September 2015. OISL called for witnesses to give their accounts of Sri Lanka during the war; the Sri Lankan Government (GoSL) reacted by increasing fear and intimidation on the Tamil population in general and on the people publicising the OISL call in particular.

Most of the witnesses who came forward to OISL had fled the country since 2009. They provided compelling stories of the events they witnessed. But they did so under OISL assurances of anonymity fearing for the lives of their relatives in Sri Lanka. They fear for their lives if they go back to Sri Lanka and in numerous UK court cases, their fear has been found to be valid.

Sri Lanka is not a safe place for witnesses. The current UNHCR guidelines, which came into effect in December 2012, recognise certain ‘Witnesses of Human Rights Violations’ and ‘Victims of Human Rights Seeking Justice’ as a category of persons at risk in Sri Lanka. This was reaffirmed in the (current) United Kingdom asylum country guidance case[1] which found that individuals who have “given evidence … implicating the Sri Lankan security forces, armed forces or the Sri Lankan authorities in alleged war crimes” are at “real risk of adverse attention or persecution on return as potential or actual war crimes witnesses.” Thus, if prosecutions are conducted in Sri Lanka, the vast majority of witnesses who contributed to the OISL will not be able to provide evidence.
 
This paper was jointly submitted in August 2015 by NGOs Together Against Genocide [TAG] and The Society For Threatened Peoples [STP /GFBV] (  http://www.gfbv.de/index.php?change_lang=english)  to the UN Human Rights Council 30th Session. You may read it here  http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/data/docs/Persecution-of-Witnesses-Sri%20Lanka-UNHRC-30th-Session.pdf]
 
[1] <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=37450> 26 October 2014
[2] <http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=12682> 26 October 2014
[4] All Interviews August 2015
[5] GJ and Others Sri Lanka CG
 
[1] GJ and Others (post-civil war returnees_ Sri Lanka CG [2013] UKUT 00319 (IAC) [7(d)], reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal in MP, NT v Secretary of State for the Home Department  [2014] EWCA Civ 829]