News / Asia

Sri Lankan Protests Test UN Power to Investigate War

Multimedia

Audio

In Sri Lanka, there is continuing friction between the government and the United Nations over alleged human rights abuses during the country's civil war last year. A Sri Lankan government minister threatened to stage a hunger strike if the U.N. does not abandon its plans to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.

The United Nations office in Colombo kept its doors shut Wednesday, a day after hundreds of protesters trapped U.N. staff inside the building.

Protesters have removed barricades from the area, but Housing Minister Wimal Weerawanasa says the demonstrations will continue. On Wednesday, he vowed to begin a hunger strike unless the U.N. shuts down a panel assigned to determine whether war crimes were committed during the final months of the government's war against the Tamil rebels.

The U.N. is strongly objecting to the protests.

Major General DC Katoch, a retired Indian army officer with the Center for Land and Warfare Studies in New Delhi, says Sri Lanka is not concerned about what the U.N. thinks.

"It was a war to the finish, either way," said Major General Katoch. "And if some civilian casualties have taken place during that portion of the war, I presume that would have been treated as collateral damage and not a human rights violation."

Sri Lanka's army ended its 25-year fight against the rebels last year with an aggressive military assault on rebel strongholds in the country's north. The U.N. says 7,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict. Human rights groups accuse both sides of committing crimes against civilians.

The government has appointed its own commission to examine the conflict and is refusing to grant visas to members of the U.N. panel.

Katoch says even if the U.N. experts are allowed into the country, the data they will gather will be highly controlled by the Sri Lankan government. And he says both sides in the conflict will be highly polarized.

"Either way to get a free and frank assessment one year down the line is highly improbable," he adds. "If there were independent observers existing at the time the conflict was taking place, it would have been different."

Rights groups have accused the Sri Lankan army of trapping civilians in the war zone while attacking rebel targets. They say the rebels also were guilty of right abuses, using civilians as human shields.

Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International says the U.N. must show Sri Lanka it cannot ignore the laws of war.

"The scale and magnitude of the killings of in ordinary civilians in the northeast of Sri Lanka requires an independent international investigation," Foster said. "Victims' families deserve this, they deserve to know what happened in the final months."

Foster says if the U.N. experts cannot get inside Sri Lanka, there is still enough material to outline the nature of the violations that happened.

"We're calling on the U.N. to disclose its full figures of civilian casualties," said Foster. "There are war survivors who are living in any number of countries outside Sri Lanka. There's satellite data available for analysis."

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the United States supports people's right to free expression. But he said the U.S. also supports the United Nations panel, and that Sri Lanka needs a robust accountability process to reconcile after years of war.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs