Roundup: Sri Lanka under accusations of alleged war crime in fighting Tamil rebels
Monday, July 05, 2021 4:17 AM

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COLOMBO, Jul. 5, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- A year after defeating Tamil Tiger rebels, accusations of war crimes are still haunting against the Sri Lankan government.

The government is under continuous pressure from human rights groups to initiate an international investigation soon after the UN claimed that over 7,000 civilians were killed in the final days of the battle that ended in May 2009.

More than 70,000 people were killed in the 30-year-old civil war between the government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east before it was defeated.

Soon after ending the battle, Canadian Tamil Diaspora urged the European Union (EU) and the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to set up an international tribunal to investigate war crimes in the conflict.

Three human rights groups -- the International Crisis Group ( ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International -- renewed their calls to probe alleged human rights violations as Sri Lankan government celebrated its first war victory anniversary this year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set up a advisory panel last month to look into alleged human rights abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009. Ban's spokesman said the three-man panel would advise him on how to deal with alleged perpetrators.

The EU on Thursday welcomed the appointment of the panel, saying the EU encourages Sri Lanka to cooperate fully, including through the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with the members of the panel, in the interest of all concerned.

The appointment came after the call of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to expose the alleged violations occurred during the last lap of the civil war.

"Based on previous experience and new information, I remain convinced that such objectives would be better served by establishing an independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere," Pillay said.

Meanwhile, Pillay has accredited the government for appointing post-war reconciliation commission which looks into alleged violations of human rights.

In May, the ICG and HRW released their reports accusing Sri Lankan government of war crimes.

The Brussels based ICG in its report stated that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths.

The ICG also blamed the troops for deliberately attacking hospitals including Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital in the former LTTE held areas.

The HRW report was released few days after the ICG report. With photo evidence, the HRW report included a picture where a LTTE cadre being tied to a tree and surrounded by Sri Lankan soldiers. The other photos showed his dead body with additional injuries on his head and torso.

Its report said the photo series did not prove whether the man was executed while in custody but the available evidence indicates that a full investigation was necessary.

Meanwhile, S. Sritharana, a Tamil legislator from the northern Jaffna District claimed he had seen a mass grave at Ganeshapuram in Kilinochchil, the former capital of the LTTE. Sritharana claimed some bodies wrapped in black polythene bags were seen buried.

On the other hand, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris accusing the pro-LTTE NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for still targeting Sri Lanka unnecessarily said that a couple of NGOs do not constitute the international community. "The UN Human Rights Council debated this matter and there were representatives from all six continents and 29 countries thought there was no need to take any action, 11 countries thought otherwise, with six abstentions," Peiris said.

He stressed Sri Lanka was ready to take up the matter at the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the UN Human Rights Council, but not any other forums.

Commenting on the ICG report Peiris said its language was vague and nebulous.

He claimed the ICG had failed to present any evidence and there was a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff in the report.

He accused the ICG for not having authentic sources to prove the allegations of shelling hospitals and other places.

Peiris said Pillay's accusations against Sri Lanka were unfair.

"It is even oppressive. It is as though some people will not rest until they are successful in harassing Sri Lanka," he said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has strongly opposed calls to commence international inquiry for alleged war crimes, saying he would not tolerate any outside review of a campaign solely aimed at "defeating terrorism."

In a recent interview, Rajapaksa, who has strongly denied the accusations on war crimes, said the military did not target Tamil civilians and no non-terrorists were killed.

Meanwhile, the detained former Army chief General Sarath Fonseka, whose name was mentioned in the alleged war crimes together with Rajapaksa's brother Defense Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa, denied the war crime charges by the ICG.

Fonseka said he had masterminded the battle operation and commanded the ground operations of the final battle.

He said he would strongly deny the allegation that civilians were intentionally killed by the soldiers.

In the latest development, Sri Lankan government minister Wimal Weerawansa has urged the public to surround the UN office in Colombo and prevent the staff from leaving the premises until a decision is taken by Ban to dissolve the UN panel.

However, the Sri Lankan government has assured the UN that the comments made by Weerawansa was his individual opinion and did not reflect the policy of the government.



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