Sri Lanka’s grim record is under scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, so the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced yet another internal inquiry. Foreign governments should not be swayed by this disingenuous attempt to avert urgently needed international action.
There have been at least a dozen domestic commissions of inquiry during the decades of Sri Lanka’s civil war, often created to forestall international pressure on human rights. None has led to prosecutions, or helped families trace missing relatives. Their findings have often gone unpublished, and recommendations never implemented. International observers, UN experts, and the UN high commissioner for human rights have repeatedly highlighted deep systemic problems in Sri Lanka’s judicial processes.
The Human Rights Council has engaged on Sri Lanka for years. Atrocities at the end of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam shocked the world in 2009, and a series of UN reports found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2012 the council passed a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to implement recommendations of an earlier inquiry.