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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More