Sri Lanka implicated in possible war crimes by UN panel

[JURIST] A UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka [backgrounder] has found credible allegations of war crimes committed during the country's war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive], according to excerpts of a report disclosed Monday. The special panel, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile], found that allegations of numerous war crimes and crimes against international humanitarian law asserted against both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE warrant further investigation. The panel urged the support and cooperation of the government of Sri Lanka:

[T]he Government of Sri Lanka, in compliance with its international obligations and with a view of initiating an effective domestic accountability process, should immediately commence genuine investigations into these and other alleged violations of international humanitarians and human rights law committed by both sides involved in the armed conflict.
If the allegations of the panel are proven, the Sri Lankan government could be held accountable for human rights violations. Sri Lankan Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella [official profile] rejected the UN report, calling it biased. The leaked excerpts [materials] were printed in the Sri Lankan newspaper The Island, but the full report has not yet been made available to the public.

In December, the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs [official website] announced that the UN panel would be allowed to visit [JURIST report] the island to look into alleged war crimes in the final stages of the conflict with the LTTE. The decision signaled a reversal after months of strong opposition [JURIST report] from the Sri Lankan government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile], who described the UN panel as an infringement of Sri Lanka's sovereignty. Rajapaksa appointed his own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to investigate the final years of the conflict from the ceasefire in 2002 to its conclusion in 2009. Despite having its credibility contested by several human rights organizations, the LLRC began public hearings [JURIST report] in August with an appearance by Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa [official profile], who defended the actions of the government [JURIST report] during the conflict. The government has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces violated international law during the conflict.

 

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