UN rights chief calls for international inquiry into Sri Lanka conflict

[JURIST] UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay [official website] on Monday called for an international inquiry [statement] into the conduct of the Sri Lankan government during its civil war [JURIST news archive]. Pillay, speaking at the opening of the fourteenth session of the Human Rights Council [official website], commended the Sri Lankan government for progress made on the resettlement of internally displaced people and the relaxation of emergency rule [JURIST report], but implored the international community to do more:

Concrete initiatives must now follow to provide justice and redress to victims and generally to promote accountability and longer-term reconciliation. The Government has recently created a Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation to address some of these questions. However, ... I remain convinced that such objectives would be better served by establishing an independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs GL Peiris [official website] rejected the statement [BBC report] Tuesday, expressing the indignation of his government. Additionally, he stated that Pillay was unfairly pursuing the Sri Lankan government, and establishing an international probe would interfere with the domestic investigation and would be counter to basic international principles. Pillay also called on the government of Thailand to conduct an independent investigation into the recent conflict with the red shirts [BBC backgrounder], and urged government authorities to abide by international standards for the use of force and due process.

In its 2010 Annual Report [JURIST report], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] cited the failure of the Human Rights Council to adequately address the Sri Lankan conflict as a prime example of the "global justice gap." This gap is caused by the exploitation of international organizations and alliances to avoid accountability for international human rights violations. AI pointed to the complacency of Sri Lanka's regional allies on the council in allowing a noncritical resolution authored by the Sri Lankan government to pass unopposed. The International Crisis Group (ICG) [official website] in May accused Sri Lankan security forces of war crimes [JURIST report] during the last months of the conflict. The ICG claimed that it had acquired enough evidence supporting allegations of shelling civilians, hospitals, and environmental facilities to warrant a independent inquiry by the UN on war crimes in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government claims that no civilians were killed during the final months of the war. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] reaffirmed his plan to set up a UN panel [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of human rights violations during the civil war. Earlier that month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] rejected [JURIST report] Ban's plan to appoint a panel of experts to look into alleged rights abuses in the island nation's civil war, saying it "is totally uncalled for and unwarranted."

 

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