Rights group urges UN Sri Lanka war crimes probe

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged the UN Security Council [official website] to establish an international body to conduct an inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed in Sri Lanka [JURIST news archive], and to press the Sri Lankan government to allow full access to aid groups, in an open letter [text, PDF; press release] released Thursday. Yvonne Terlingen, head of AI at the UN, said in a letter addressed to individual security council members that the UN Human Rights Council [official website] had "failed spectacularly" by failing to call for an investigation in a May resolution [JURIST report], because:


there are serious grounds to doubt the government’s ability and willingness to address accountability in any manner that is credible and meets Sri Lanka’s international obligations. Sri Lanka has a long-standing record of impunity for gross and persistent human rights violations and governmental obstruction to national mechanisms to establish accountability, combined with curbs on the independence of the judiciary and the activities of lawyers and other human rights defenders.

AI further urged the Security Council to adopt a resolution requiring the Sri Lankan government to allow UN aid workers, the Red Cross [official website], and other NGOs "immediate and full access" to "all places of detention and all camps for the displaced." In May, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official websites] had reached a similar agreement [text], which Rajapaksa rejected [JURIST report] a day later.

The international community has expressed concerns about human rights violations during and after the Sri Lankan conflict. Last month, the UNHRC adopted a resolution [text, DOC] welcoming the end of the conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive], but failed to call for investigations into alleged breaches of international law. Also last month, the Council of the European Union [official website] called for an independent inquiry [conclusions, PDF; JURIST report] into possible war crimes committed during fighting between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE. In March, the Sri Lankan government denied [JURIST report] allegations by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] that 2,800 civilian deaths caused by recent military action against the LTTE may constitute war crimes. In February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] alleging that both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are guilty of human rights violations. Earlier this year, Pillay condemned [press release; JURIST report] the deteriorating conditions of those trapped in the Vanni region, and called for investigations and prosecutions for the killings and other human rights abuses.

 

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