Towards Transitional Justice

As the government moves towards implementing mechanisms of transitional justice (TJ) in the country, a workshop was organised by the Women and Media Collective on the 22 June 2016 to build awareness on the TJ process while also identifying the roles and responsibilities of the Special Taskforce on Reconciliation and Transitional Justice. Designed for civil society activists the programme aimed to increase and strengthen civil society participation for the process and articulate how the government should be held accountable to its implementation.

Around 45 participants, representing civil society organizations as well as women‘s rights organizations, from various districts (Colombo, Galle, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Pollonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Mahiynganaya, Monaragala, Nuwaraeliya, Gampaha) participated in this workshop.

Attorney at Law, Manouri Muththettuwegama the Chairperson of the Transitional Justice Task Force, Dr. Farazana Haniffa, Mirak Raheem, Sudharshana Gunawardhena (Attorney at Law), Ramani Muththetuwegama (Attorney at Law), Brito Fernando, Bhawani Fonseka (Attorney at Law), and Dr. Harini Amarasuriya were resource persons at the workshop.

Sudharshana Gunawardena, Attorney at Law and the Executive Director of Rights Now briefed the participants on the current situation of the country and the steps taken by the government in the implementation of TJ. He stated that the influence of civil society and the international community further pressured the government in entering the process.

Thus from 2012 to date based on the resolutions made in Geneva pertaining to Sri Lanka and the way in which the situation was handled by the previous government a resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ was passed in March 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). It is with this mandate that the UN high commissioner for human rights established the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL).

Ramani Muttetuwagama, Attorney at Law, explained the concept of TJ and its four core elements which are judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings, reparations, institutional reform and truth commissions. She discussed how reparations should be carried out and that it cannot be justified only through financial means. According to her the problems of those who are victimised cannot be solved only through monetary incentives thus decision makers need to fully understand their conditions and provide an apology, the truth, ensure their rights and help rebuild their lives.

Brito Fernando from the Rights to Life organisation, Dr. Farzana Haniffa the convener of the Muslim Commission in the North, Bhavani Fonseka from the Centre for Policy Alternatives and Dr. Harini Amarasuriya from the Public Representation Committee on Constitutional Reform commented on how to be more involved in the process of TJ.

At the end of the workshop there was a discussion among members of the task force and civil society on problems that arise when obtaining public opinion for the TJ process.