Accountability delayed by Politics, ill-prepared institutions, says Prof. Ratner

Professor Steven Ratner, a member of the Panel of Experts appointed to advice United Nations Secretary General (UNSG), Ban Ki Moon, on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka, in a recent U.S. Law journal, writes that, in the case of Sri Lanka, "despite an impressive set of legal norms in place to deal with atrocities such as those committed in this conflict, the infusion of politics and the limitations of unprepared institutions can seriously delay prospects for accountability."

PDF: Ratner: Accountability and Sri Lankan Civil War

Prof. Steven RatnerWhile Dr Ratner explains the international and Colombo-introduced limitations within which his committee had to work, Ratner displays a genuine understanding of the origins of the Sri Lanka conflict, Tamil activist circles commented on the paper. The activists added that the paper and the Panel report may be valuable insstrument to trigger an objective and detailed inquiry into the events of Mu’l’livaaykkaal in a future date when international political conditions are more favorable to demanding the establishment of the facts behind the killing of more than 80,000 Tamil civilians (Petrie report), even if the current political forces in the U.N., and the Indian Ocean geopolitics have thwarted any meaningful progress in accountability.

In Pg. 808 Ratner admits that it was political pressure by the United States that resulted in Ban Ki Moon appointing the Panel of Experts.

PDF: Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka

PDF: Report of UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka (9Mb)

Francis Boyle, professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, who called the killings in Mu’l’livaaykkaal as several times worse than the Srebrenica genocide, questioned the panels reluctance to using the genocide label. (Footnote 29: “Although various Tamil exile groups routinely deployed the word genocide to decide governmental actions, the panel made no such legal determination based on the credibly alleged violations.”)

Boyle also disagreed with Ratner statement, “[b]ecause of the disagreements among states over the application and scope of human rights obligations during armed conflict, the panel addressed only those human rights violations “materially or temporally outside the conduct of the war.” Prof. Boyle commented, "This makes no sense because the World Court has routinely ruled that both international humanitarian law and international human rights law apply during times of war and therefore that both bodies of law should be applied."

Noting the admission by Ratner, in Pg 802, that the Panel did not recommend an International Criminal Court investigation for political reasons—it “would have been counterproductive,” Boyle asked "For whom? Certainly not the interests of justice and accountability, let alone peace and reconciliation."

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