Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris [official profile] announced on Monday that Sri Lanka would not cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. Last month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] voted [JURIST report] to launch an investigation into alleged violations committed by Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder] in 2009 towards the end of the civil war. However, speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Association forum, Peiris signaled Sri Lanka’s intent not to cooperate due to concerns over legality, fairness, and conflict of interest [Reuters report]. Peiris also expressed criticism [AP report] of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile], who has previously been accused of being partial given her Tamil background.
The UN resolution came after years of pleading from the international community and rights groups to look into alleged human rights atrocities during Sri Lanka’s 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 (HRW) [advocacy website] urged an international inquiry [JURIST report] into human rights abuses during the war, asserting that tens of thousands were killed resulting in relatively few prosecutions. In November 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] demanded [JURIST report] that Sri Lanka conduct an internal investigation. In January, the US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp [official profile] also called on Sri Lanka to investigate [press release; JURIST report] after he interviewed eyewitnesses regarding “serious human rights abuses” that occurred at the end of the war.