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SRI LANKA: PSC trial compared with the Moscow Show Trials

November 26, 2012

SRI LANKA: Similarities and dissimilarities between the PSC trial and the Moscow Show Trials

In the mid-1930s, Stalin staged several trials that are now known as Moscow Show Trials. The similarities and dissimilarities between them and the “trial by PSC” are as follows.

1. Stalin’s trials had a façade of justice, in that they were conducted in a court by a judge and prosecutor, and it was an open trial. In fact, the wide openness of the trial was one of the very important factors of that kind of trial. However, the PSC trial is by seven parliamentarians and conducted in secret, and even the reporting of the process is contrary to the Standing Orders.

2. The central aspect of Stalin’s trials was the confession; the accused admitting his guilt and apologizing to the nation. This was to create the public impression that the verdict is based on actual guilt, admitted by the accused himself. In a “PSC trial”, there is no such possibility of “voluntary” confessions. (In fact, in Stalin’s trials the confessions were obtained by torture and if the victims were not willing to make a public confession, they would have been killed without the trial. However, in a PSC trial the issue of proof, even in an artificial way, does not seem to be required. In fact, it is the issues relating to proof that are being challenged by the cases filed before the Supreme Court.)

3. In Stalin’s trials, there was no show of hurry. Of course, the entire process was pre-determined and if anything went against the script, the cases were postponed and the victims were made to understand, by torture or otherwise, that the script has to be followed. In the PSC trial, there is a mighty hurry and, according to reports, even the request for a reasonable time for preparation by the Chief Justice has been denied.

4. Stalin wanted the Western world to believe that the trial was a genuine one. That was the reason for allowing observers - and even inviting very high level observers - to the trial. When the PSC trial is held, ignoring requests by the Supreme Court to withhold the trial until they determine some questions relating to the legality of the PSC process, there is not even an attempt to give an impression of a fair trial.

A good book to read these days as we watched the PSC trials is Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, where the sheer irony of so-called justice is brilliantly exposed.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


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