Panel of experts finds credible reports of war crimes during Sri Lanka conflict – UN

A young girl and her mother at a displaced persons camp in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka (2009). Photo: IRIN

25 April 2011 – The panel of experts set up to advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on accountability issues with respect to the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka has found credible reports of war crimes committed by both the Government and Tamil rebels and calls for genuine investigations into the allegations, according to a report made public today by the United Nations.

The decision to release the report, which was submitted to the Secretary-General on 12 April and shared with the Sri Lankan Government, was made as a “matter of transparency and in the broader public interest,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that this advisory report will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lankan Government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace,” the statement added.

Mr. Ban is carefully reviewing the report’s conclusions and recommendations, “including its disturbing assessment that a number of allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka are credible, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Government forces declared victory over the rebel LTTE in May 2009 after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people. The conflict ended with large numbers of Sri Lankans living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in the north of the island country.

The panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government in the final stages of the conflict, including killing of civilians through widespread shelling and the denial of humanitarian assistance.

The credible allegations concerning the LTTE comprise six core categories of potential serious violations, including using civilians as a human buffer and killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control.

The panel’s first recommendation is that the Government of Sri Lanka should respond to the serious allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations.

“The Secretary-General has consistently held the view that Sri Lanka should, first and foremost, assume responsibility for ensuring accountability for the alleged violations,” said the statement, adding that he encourages the Government to respond constructively to the recommendations made by the panel.

Mr. Ban has decided that he will respond positively to the panel’s recommendation for a review of the UN’s actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka – particularly in the last stages – and its aftermath. The modality of such a review will be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programmes.

“In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum,” the statement added.

The three-member panel of experts was set up following the Joint Statement made by Mr. Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the Secretary-General visited the South Asian nation shortly after the end of the conflict.

The members of the panel were Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia (chair), Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States. They began their work in September 2010.


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