UN SG refers Sri Lanka war crimes report to rights body

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Monday sent a report [text, in PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians during clashes with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in 2009. The UN leader forwarded the report, compiled by a panel of experts appointed by the secretary-general, to the president of the HRC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] asking them to evaluate the claims and determine a course of action which could include an international inquiry. The panel of experts found credible allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan government, including the killing of civilians through widespread shelling and the denial of humanitarian assistance. The government of Sri Lanka has opposed the findings of the panel. According to a statement released along with the report [text], "the Secretary-General had given time to the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the report, the Government has declined to do so, and instead has produced its own reports on the situation in the north of Sri Lanka, which are being forwarded along with the panel of experts report." The panel also recommended a review of the UN's actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka. The secretary-general has asked Thoraya Obaid [profile], former executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) [official website], to conduct the review.

In April, a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka [backgrounder] found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country's war with the LTTE. The special panel, appointed by the secretary-general, found that allegations of numerous war crimes and crimes against international humanitarian law asserted against both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE warranted further investigation. 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. The decision signaled a reversal after months of strong opposition [JURIST report] from the Sri Lankan government, who described the UN panel as an infringement of Sri Lanka's sovereignty. President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] 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 2010 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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