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Leading expert in human rights, justice and security issues in South Asia, Dr Bina D’Costa, was invited to deliver keynotes, along with Eduardo Gonzalez (the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission), at a significant recent forum on civil society dialogue on transitional justice in Sri Lanka. Dr D’Costa previously provided inputs at the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh, and presented her insights from that experience at this forum.
The event, organised by the International Center for Ethnic Studies (ICES) provided the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera, with advice on how the consultation process for the domestic mechanisms on tractional justice should be designed.
Three public events and two closed door meetings brought together Sri Lanka’s experts in the field, along with some of its important political actors and civil society groups including the Transitional Justice ad hoc group and Office for National Unity and Reconcilation, the initiative led by the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The dialogue aimed to discuss various strategies to promote justice in Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister Samaraweera in a speech at the UN earlier this year expressed that the Government of Sri Lanka recognised the process of reconciliation involved addressing the broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence, and for non-recurrence to become truly meaningful, the necessity of reaching a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people.
Dr D’Costa said that these dialogues indicated Sri Lanka’s genuine interest in dealing with past atrocities. Carried out in different provinces of the country, these were run in Sinhala, Tamil and English allowing diverse groups to participate in the conversations.
These dialogues were very important for Sri Lanka because these brought together a number of stakeholders. In Galle, this involved inoputs from religious leaders, families of the disappeared and former members of the armed forces. In some areas such as Nuwara Eliya where upcountry Tamils (Indian Plantation Tamils) live, this was the first time such an initiative took place, allowing the ethnic group to familiarise with transitional justice mechanisms.
Dr Bina D’Costa, is a Fellow and Convener of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University. She has contributed widely to various projects in Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand; and worked as a policy analyst for the Vanderbilt University, UNRISD (United Nations Research in Social Development), UNDP (United Nations Development Program), OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Australia) and DfID (Department for International Development - UK).
The International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), is one of Sri Lanka’s leading research centres, focusing on ethnicity, identity politics, conflict and conflict resolution, post-war reconstruction, democracy and governance, human rights, development and gender.
Click here for more information on ICES.