[JURIST] A UN report [text] released Wednesday found that war crimes may have been committed during the Sri Lankan civil war. The report, which was delayed [JURIST report], stressed that it was a human rights investigation and not a criminal investigation, making it harder for the analysis to be a legal analysis as there were many constraints on resources. However, the investigators “attempted to identify the patterns of persistent and large scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that occurred” in an effort to use evidence of systemic violations to show that war crimes may have been committed. The report first provided foundational background about the civil war and then informational background about the legal framework that would be used if there were to be a criminal prosecution. It detailed extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, and enforced disappearances among other unlawful acts. In a statement [text] about the report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] urged the creation of a hybrid special court that would bring together international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators. He believes that this is an “essential step towards justice.”
The report comes amid mounting pressure on the Sri Lankan government from human rights groups and the international community [NYT report] to investigate and prosecute abuses during the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder]. Last year former US ambassador Stephen Rapp called on [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to investigate rights abuses by security forces during the civil war. In 2013 UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded [JURIST report] that the Sri Lankan government conduct its own investigation into war crime allegations. Earlier that year former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record.
Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.