News / Asia

UN Presses Sri Lanka to Pursue War Crimes Probe

The United Nations urged Sri Lanka in a resolution on Thursday to carry out credible investigations into killings and disappearances during its nearly 30-year civil war, especially in the brutal final stages in 2009.

It voiced concern at reports of continuing violations including killings, torture, curbs on the right to freedom of expression, and reprisals against activists and journalists.

Resolutions such as that brought by the United States are not binding, but the scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council maintains pressure on the government to prosecute crimes committed in the conflict against Tamil Tiger rebels.

"This resolution, which builds on a similar 2012 resolution, re-affirmed that Sri Lanka must take meaningful action on reconciliation and accountability in order to move forward,'' U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "While some important progress has been made, there is much work still to be done."

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of a war that began in 1983 as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for an independent homeland, a U.N. panel has said.

The panel said it had "credible allegations" that troops and the Tamil Tigers both carried out atrocities and war crimes, but singled out the government for most of the responsibility for the deaths. The government rejects the allegation.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a report last month that Sri Lanka was failing to investigate alleged wartime atrocities committed by government forces and that activists and opposition politicians were still being killed or abducted.

The U.S. resolution "calls upon the government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law."

Need for "Concrete Action"

The 47-member Geneva forum adopted the text with 25 countries in favor, including India; and 13 against, including Pakistan. Eight abstained and one delegation was absent.

"We note with concern the inadequate progress by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitment to this council in 2009," India's ambassador Dilip Sinha told the talks.

Rights groups welcomed the continuing spotlight on Sri Lanka but regretted that the council failed to establish an international investigation into wartime crimes.

"It is clear that the Sri Lankan government is unwilling and unable to investigate these events itself, so an international probe is the only way to obtain the truth and justice necessary for genuine reconciliation," Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International's expert on Sri Lanka, said in a statement.

Alex Conte, of the International Commission of Jurists, said: "Sri Lanka has a long history of promising justice but delivering impunity ... With this resolution, the international community shows it wants to see concrete action."

Sri Lankan presidential envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe took the floor at the debate to reject the U.S. resolution as "highly intrusive" and called for states to vote against the text.

"Why this preoccupation with Sri Lanka, why this inordinate and disproportionate level of interest in a country that has successfully ended a 30-year conflict against terrorism and has demonstrated so much progress in a relatively short space of time," Samarasinghe said.

Referring to Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, he said: "We have every confidence in our domestic processes and mechanism."

Former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who led the military to victory in the conflict, said this week he was ready to face questions about allegations of war crimes.

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Comment Sorting
by: Real_Peace
March 22, 2013 1:59 PM
The US-led UN resolution is a welcoming small step to attempt towards reconciliation. But we have to be realistic about the current situation which is seen below through the infographics below, created by an independent organization that released into the PUBLIC domain.

So the REAL questions will be:

1. what happened since the March 2012 UN Resolution and now - did the situation get better?

2. Now that a second UN resolution is passed asking Sri Lanka to investigate... wouldn’t that be like asking Syrian Assad to investigate why so many Syrian civilians died etc.?

by: Vishnudeep from: Tamil Nadu
March 22, 2013 11:10 AM
UN RESOLUTIN ON SRI LANKA : Because of Genocide of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka the following immediate steps are required :

1.The Indian Govt. should include the deleted clause in the draft resolution stating that “Credible International Investigation by experts to be done in Sri Lanka to determine the extent of Genocide and bringing all those culprits to justice.
(It is painful to read that India has diluted the draft resolution on Sri Lankan Genocide)

2.The discredited Sri Lankan Army should be withdrawn from Tamil areas immediately and civil administration should be restored in Northern Sri Lanka.

3.LLRC is farce and there is no credible justice system in Sri Lanka and none is punished for killings, rape and torture of unarmed civilians. Hence UN, UNCHR and ICJ should intervene in Sri Lanka to stop the killings, rape and torture still going on in Sri Lanka.

4.India should remember the greatest Epic “RAMAYANA” and the war between Ram and Ravana for abducting Seetha . When Ravana lost all his weapons Ram magnanimously told him “GO TODAY AND COME TOMORROW” (Of course to fight with weapons). Here Seetha was physically unharmed. Compare with the situation in Sri Lanka where more than 1,40,000 unarmed civilians were killed and more than 80,000 Rape victims and widows. How will you justify that ?

5. Therefore India has a moral duty to stop the genocide and persuade the opposing countries to vote for the resolution. India need not intervene in Sri Lanka with Indian troops but only support American or International intervention to bring to justice the persons who committed war crimes and Genocide in Sri Lanka. If justice is not done for the genocide the retribution will come by providence or by divine punishment.
In Response

by: SRLKN from: SL
March 23, 2013 12:37 AM
Only Tamils in Tamil Nadu keep parrotting these views. Genocide is their favourite word regardless of how grossly misplaecd it is. They only convey an egotistical nature, and complete disingenuity because it is easily understood that you don't actually care about the tamils in Sri Lanka. Tamils in Sri Lanka don't want all this fuss they just want to get on with their lives. they have returned to their homes and their livelihoods, and wish all this noise would stop. They too know that tamil nadu doesn't really have their best interest at heart. So stop crying incessesantly like some petulant child over something you cannot have which is to divide this country. Get real and let others live!

by: Banda from: Colombo
March 21, 2013 11:06 PM
Where is credible accountability on human rights violations by US on Iraq, Afganistan, Pakstan. And horde of other wars they fought in tha past. When Srilanka ended the brutal guerrilla terrorism that plagued the country for 30 long years they should have been commended and should have been a shinning example to the world, but jealous nations of the west want revenge instead of praise. The whole world knows the truth but goes along with USA for economic gains.
In Response

by: manimaran from: tamilnadu
March 22, 2013 8:35 AM
banda, u have no rights to talk about human violations; tamils were forced to take weapon becoz u ruthless monsters(tamils were denied of basic rights). is this what ur peaceful buddhism teaches u?

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