Sri Lanka’s failed UN IL commission exposes war crimes

Sri Lanka has lost its seat for the 2021 Election of the International Law Commission, the current UN Ambassador is Mohan Peiris, He received 112 votes from a total number of 191.

He failed to get elected to the 34 member UN body. International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) were protesting against him as his failure to hold accountable the perpetrators of enforced disappearance, execution, torture and rape during his tenure as the country’s chief law officer.

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) led by Yasmin Sooka led the campaign against Peiris detailing his previous track record as an Attorney General and Chief Justice, saying he should not be framing international law at the UN.

JDS also joined hands with the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in a global appeal calling to stop Sri Lanka’s chief justice during the first Rajapaksa regime getting elected to a top UN body entrusted with framing international law.

In November 2021, the UN General Assembly will elect 34 members to the International Law Commission for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 2023. Eight Asia-Pacific nationals will be elected from ten to sit among its 34 members.

In a breath-taking attempt to subvert international institutions and the rule of law, the Government of Sri Lanka has proposed Mohan Peiris as a candidate for election to the Commission, who is compromised by his failure to hold accountable the perpetrators of enforced disappearance, execution, torture and rape during his tenure as the country’s chief law officer.

“The UN’s International Law Commission codifies international laws, with some of its recent work being on areas like immunity, extradition and crimes against humanity. All lawyers and those who care about a more just world order must urge members of the UN General Assembly not to vote for this man,”said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka in a statement before.

“Under Pieris’s watch, serious international crimes were alleged to have been perpetrated by the Sri Lankan security forces for which nobody has been held accountable. His appointment as Sri Lanka’s top diplomat at the UN in New York already sent an appalling signal to the international community regarding Sri Lanka’s disregard for accountability and was a slap in the face for thousands of victims who have still not accessed justice,” she added.

He served as the Attorney General of Sri Lanka, failing to investigate or prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2013 he was appointed to the post of Chief Justice, amidst a national and international outcry over the Government’s unlawful impeachment of his predecessor, Shirani Bandaranayake, which the UN Human Rights Council said was an assault on judicial independence and Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ruled as illegal,” according to a dossier circulated among the member countries urging them to oppose his election to the body.

Meantime, Philipino Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also failed to get a seat in the body. In the case of Mr. Roque, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a worldwide body of democratic lawyers and jurists from more than 90 countries opposed his nomination pointing out that Mr. Roque had “arrogantly” defended “even beyond the call of duty” the attacks of President Rodrigo Duterte on human rights, justice, due process and the rule of law.

It was Sri Lanka’s first failed attempt to win the seat in the UN body, and experts believe it raised serious questions about the messaging and clarity of the country’s human rights and democratic policy.



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