THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRUTH-SEEKING AND PROSECUTION:GIVING MEANING TO SRI LANKAS TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE PROCESS
Almost seven years after the end of the war, Sri Lanka is on the verge of beginning the long and arduous road of transitional justice. In January 2015, Sri Lanka underwent a dramatic shift in political power, with the fall of the Rajapakse regime and the election of Maithripala Sirisena as the President of Sri Lanka. The Parliamentary elections in August 2015 saw further change, with traditional rivals in Sri Lankan politics, the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, joining forces and forming a National Unity Government
One of the consequences of the shift in political power has been that transitional justice was put on the agenda by the Government. The Governments plan for pursuing justice and accountability was first articulated by the Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, during his address to the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 14th September 2015. The Foreign Minister laid out the Governments commitments in securing truth, justice, accountability, and reconciliation. The commitments included the creation of four transitional justice mechanisms: a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and Non-recurrence; an Office of Missing Persons (OMP); a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel; and an Office for Reparations.1
These commitments were further confirmed through the Human Rights Council resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and adopted on 1 October 2015.2 The commitments that the Government has made are extensive, complex, and ambitious. While the commitments are welcomed, there is trepidation around whether and how the Government will give effect to the commitments.
In January 2016, the Government created a Consultation Task Force, comprising members of civil society, to lead the process of national consultations on transitional justice. The Consultation Task Force began consultations in February 2016. The Government has also established a working group to assist with the formulation of concrete proposals.
While the broad contours of a transitional justice process have been unveiled, the specifics remain ambiguous, perhaps intentionally. The four proposed mechanisms are complex and are inherently legalistic and technical, yet other than their titles, there is no publicly available information about them.
To ensure a comprehensive, just, and feasible truth-seeking and prosecution strategy, it is now crucial to focus on the details and specifics of the proposed process. The importance is threefold: to draw out the relevant issues that ought to be discussed, both in the design and content of the mechanisms and on issues that have a bearing on truth-seeking and prosecution; to present concrete ideas to policy makers and shapers; and to inform wider society.
The objective of the meeting is to help refine and contribute to the further development of the transitional justice architecture proposed by the Government, as well as to strengthen stakeholders understanding of the issues, and identify challenges. Through this meeting ICES hopes to create a robust discussion that will elicit specific recommendations with the potential to inform and shape the truth-seeking and prosecution structures and processes to be initiated by the Sri Lankan Government. The meeting will seek to contribute constructively to the practice and policy on transitional justice, specifically in relation to truth-seeking and prosecution, both within civil society and political society.
Truth-Seeking and Prosecution
The concepts of truth-seeking and prosecution are inextricably linked and the meeting will approach them as part of a holistic process of transitional justice. The discussions will focus on inter alia: the inter-relationship between truth-seeking and prosecution in the Sri Lankan context; the viability of achieving reconciliation through truth-seeking and prosecution; and the balancing of truth and punishment.