[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Thursday voted [press release] to launch an investigation into alleged human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s civil war. In a vote of 23-12, with 12 member states abstaining, the council resolved to “establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations” that took place during a decades-long conflict [UN News Centre report] between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [official website]. The LTTE, a rebel separatist group [CFR backgrounder] that crusaded for an independent state for the Tamil people, was overcome by the Sri Lankan government in May 2009. The US-led UN resolution asserted that the plight in Sri Lanka “had continued to deteriorate” and included “enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, repression to human rights defenders and violence against religious minorities.” The resolution’s goals are aimed at “avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability” by both parties.
The UN resolution comes after many years of pleading from the international community to look into human rights atrocities that allegedly took place during and after the Sri Lankan civil war. In May 2009 a UNHRC resolution [JURIST report] welcomed the conclusion of the war and condemned LTTE attacks on civilians but did not call for an investigation into purported war crimes. The following month, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] an international inquiry into human rights abuses during the war asserting that tens of thousands were killed resulting in relatively few prosecutions. More recently, in November 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded [JURIST report] that Sri Lanka conduct an investigation into the alleged war crimes threatening an international investigation if the country did not comply. The US followed up [JURIST report] in January when Stephen Rapp, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, called on Sri Lanka to investigate after Rapp spoke with eyewitnesses “about serious human rights abuses” that occurred at the end of the war.”