UN SG Ban urges probe of alleged violations of humanitarian law in Sri Lanka conflict

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Friday called [transcript] on the government of Sri Lanka [JURIST news archive] to conduct a "proper investigation" of any "credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law" arising from the recent conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] that ended last month with the military collapse of the Tigers and the killing of its leaders. Ban urged the Sri Lankan government to "recognize the international call for accountability and full transparency" after the cessation of hostilities. After briefing the Security Council [official website] on his recent visit to the country, Ban said that:


It is crucially important that the Sri Lankan Government follow-up on all the promises that they have made. Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective. I have been urging the Sri Lankan President on this matter. He assured me that he will institute the necessary procedures to ensure the transparency and accountability of this [process].

Sri Lanka's Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe [official profile] said [AP report] that he believed that Ban was referring to a domestic effort aimed at ethnic reconciliation, not an international war crimes tribunal. Samarasinghe pointed to a resolution [text, DOC] adopted by the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in May that did not call for a war crimes investigation [JURIST report] as an accurate reflection of international sentiment.

Last week, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on the UN Security Council to establish an international body [JURIST report] to investigate war crimes allegedly committed in Sri Lanka. 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. Also in May, Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] had reached a similar agreement [text], which Rajapaksa rejected [JURIST report] a day later. 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. The 25-year civil war [BBC timeline] in Sri Lanka has resulted in more than 70,000 deaths.

 

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