UN Official Hints at War Crimes in Sri Lanka

The U.N. human rights office says war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed during the conflict in Sri Lanka, possibly by both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels. 

Two months ago, the U.N.'s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, called on the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels to immediately suspend hostilities.   She warned the number of civilian deaths could reach catastrophic levels.  She put both warring parties on notice that they may possibly have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The High Commissioner's spokesman, Rupert Colville, says since she expressed these concerns, nothing has happened to change her mind. 

"Quite the contrary," he said.  "Thousands more civilians are believed to have been killed or injured.  Heavy shelling of areas populated by civilians has continued, more evidence has emerged about the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] forcing civilians to stay against their will in the conflict zone, and shooting at or even killing some who tried to escape." 

Nearly 200,000 Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka have become displaced since the government began its so-called fight to the finish against the Tamil Tiger rebels early this year.  The two sides have been engaged in a civil war for more than a quarter of a century.

An estimated 50,000 people remain trapped in the tiny conflict zone.  Thousands of civilians reportedly have been killed and many thousands more wounded.  The United Nations has called on both warring parties to end this bloodbath.  It said the Tamil Tigers must stop using the civilians as human shields and let them leave the conflict zone.

At the same time, the United Nations has told the government it must fulfill its commitment not to use heavy weapons and to exercise maximum restraint.

Colville noted that the clashes over the past week or so have drawn strong criticism from the U.N. secretary-general, other Senior officials and an increasing number of worried governments.

He notes three U.N. special investigators recently called for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the Sri Lankan conflict.

"We agree that something of that sort is now essential," said Colville. "There has to be accountability of what has gone on in Sri Lanka.  There has to be clarity and there cannot be impunity." 

U.N. aid agencies report they are blocked from entering the conflict zone and assisting the civilians.  The World Food Program says a major shipment of food has not reached the area since April first.  It says only small amounts of food have been allowed in and that is likely to run out in a matter of days.  

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs