Feb 14, 2017

Sri Lanka urged to sack three from witness protection body

An international human rights watchdog has called upon the Sri Lankan government to remove three of its officers from its first ever witness protection body.

YasanthakodagodaAt least one alleged perpetrator of torture named in a UN report has been appointed to the body in Sri Lanka supposed to protect victims and witnesses, known as the National Authority for Victim and Witness Protection, says the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in a press release from Johannesburg.

Naming the officers to be removed, ITJP has also released a dossier 'Putting the Wolf to Guard the Sheep' with details that show why the three are not fit to be in office.

The National Authority was launched to mark the first anniversary of the Sirisena Government in January 2016.

Government aim questioned
Appointments of Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms Suhada Gamlath and former Terrorist Information Department (TID) Director Nandana Munasinghe has been challenged by ITJP.Nandanamunasingha

While Nandana Munasinghe has been named in a UN report as an alleged perpetrator to torture, Suhada Gamlath has been in charge of the government “rehabilitation” of former combatants who complained of torture including sexual violence in detention.

Yasantha Kodagoda is alleged by independent international experts to have played a role in preventing witnesses from testifying against the security forces in the case of the killing of 17 aid workers from the French NGO, Action Contre La Faim, in Muttur in 2006.

“Nobody testifying against the state or security forces should expect witness protection under the current system,” said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka, “quite the reverse –they would risk their lives if they asked for protection from the state; these appointments clearly show the new Government’s aim is to protect the perpetrators”.

No Tamils
SudathgamlathApart from the controversial three, Ashoka Wijetilike, Dr. M.A.D.S.J. Shiranjani Niriella, Dr. Nimal Fernando, Sanjeewa Samaranayake, Hamid Al Ghazali , Neel Hapuhinne and W.U.P. Premachandra have also been appointed to the Authority.

“The absence of Tamil members appointed to this body is striking given many of the victims and witnesses will be Tamil. It has only one Muslim representative and is 90% Sinhalese,” ITJP has noted in its dossier.

Retired high court judge Wimal Nambuwasam chairs the Authority.

(by Kithsiri Wijesinghe – jdslanka.org)