The mania for hybrid courts for war crimes is very 21st century

But Kosovo, East Timor show they may not be right for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s ruling party legislators demonstrate outside the national parliament on March 22, 2012 against a US-led move to pass a resolution against the country at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Sri Lanka’s ruling party legislators demonstrate outside the national parliament on March 22, 2012 against a US-led move to pass a resolution against the country at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

The UN’s long-awaited report on Sri Lanka’s violent history and wartime abuse has recommended a rigorous process of doing justice — the establishment of a hybrid court, with local and international judges hearing cases prosecuted and defended by teams of local lawyers working with those from other countries. The judges apply domestic law that has been reformed to include international standards.

It sounds logical, as a way to repair a society riven by decades of conflict and with few indigenous mechanisms to provide accountability transparently and in a way that’s seen to be fair. But would a hybrid court really do that?

The mania for hybrid courts is very 21st century. They’re supposed to be the “glocal” solution to international transitional justice. But the ones set up in Kosovo and East Timor in 2000 were an expensive failure. And that for Sierra Leone, established in 2002, had only very limited success.

One of the main requirements for an effective hybrid court is that the national government should want to be involved. The Sri Lankan government does not. The second is that that the UN should employ enough of a hands-off approach for the local communities to take ownership of the process of addressing historical hurt and the memory of it.

Both of these requirements are unlikely to be met.

Perhaps it may be better to let Sri Lanka get through its truth and reconciliation process on its own. If it does.


Originally published at www.rashmee.com on September 21, 2015.