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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora