April 2020

04.04.2020 - Presidential Pardons Need To Consider Institutional Stability

The presidential pardon given to an army soldier convicted and sentenced to death by the courts of law, including the Supreme Court, has generated severe criticism from political parties, human rights organisations and citizens groups. The eight killings for which this soldier was convicted were particularly brutal and included three children under the age of 18 with one being only five years old. The pardon is unacceptable because the events relating to the conviction do not even fall into the category of collateral damage, often used as a justification for civilian deaths on the battle field.

If one removes the ethnic lens, it would be clear that these killings and the absence of demonstrable remorse, would cause shock and horror within society. The presidential pardon has had its share of supporters who see the convicted soldier as part of the Sri Lanka military that defeated the LTTE after nearly three decades of often horrendous warfare in which atrocities occurred on all sides. The conviction of military officers for crimes during the period of war has been rare and this was an instance in which the Sri Lanka military itself led the investigation process and the courts of law followed through instilling confidence that the Sri Lankan judicial system was impartial and committed to justice for all of its citizens.

The National Peace Council endorses the position taken by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka which expressed its deep concern about the presidential pardon and, in the context of its opposition to the death penalty, stated that a decision to commute the death sentence to one of long term imprisonment would have been acceptable. We call upon the government to respect the independence and integrity of institutions such as the Courts of Law and the Human Rights Commission. In times of uncertainty like this there is a need to uphold and preserve institutional stability which will give confidence in the future to citizens.

Governing Council
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.