A leaked UN document raises concerns over the prospects for genuine justice for the Sri Lankan victims of alleged war crimes.
Channel 4 News has been supplied with the leaked document which critics claim could pre-empt and undermine September’s Human Rights Council discussion on a UN’s long-awaited investigation into crimes committed at the end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war.
The UN says most of those civilians died in government shelling as they were crammed into ever-diminishing “No Fire Zones” – though the Tamil Tigers are also alleged to have committed grave abuses including suicide bombings and the use of human shields.
Sri Lanka’s wartime army chief says his conscience is clear and he would welcome a war crimes investigation to prove his innocence.
“The allegations are there,” Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said in an interview with the Guardian. “We have to clear our name.”
In May 2009 the then General Fonseka was the head of the Sri Lankan army that defeated the Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ending Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war.
Nearly two years later, a UN secretary general’s panel of experts reported that both government forces and the Tamil Tigers had potentially committed serious human rights violations in the final stages of the war.
Shocking footage of the war’s end emerged shortly after, suggesting widespread crimes had been committed by forces under Fonseka’s command.
“The UN Human Rights Commission’s decision to investigate violations and the huge loss of life during the last months of the war concluded in 2009 was a significant victory for the victims. The dignity of the victims required that the truth must be told without fear or favour, and processes of justice and restoration set in motion. And the wrong was not all on one side. Dignity also demands that we await the verdict of the judges with restraint and reverence for the name of justice.”
After execution of mass atrocities and their failure to stop it, international actors have accepted their failure. Time has arrived for course correction, and Sri Lanka’s forthcoming presidential election will be the litmus test for it, and a challenge to international conscience. Will international actors bring perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka to international justice and prove “Never Again” to be more than just a slogan?
Sri Lanka will deny visas to United Nations’ investigators probing accusations of war crimes as it strengthens a domestic panel looking into allegations related to its 26-year war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Tuesday.
“It is important to understand that this investigation was set up for the benefit of all Sri Lankans, as an avenue to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation,” she said.
“It is in this context that the Human Rights Council-mandated investigation should be viewed, rather than being seen as a confrontation.”
“Britain is to join the US and three other countries in pushing for a full international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka after the government there failed to satisfy international calls for a such an inquiry, Downing Street announced on Sunday.”
“We were satisfied that there was ample evidence of a “widespread” and “systemic” attack conducted by the Sri Lankan authorities, the AI and EU reports referring in terms to the abuse of the Tamil population being part of a government “strategy,” Ruling that they “did not find it credible that, if only from his service in the police from 2003 to 2009 that the appellant did not know of the routine and serious abuse of Tamils”, the Upper Tribunal Judges said “…it is our view that the country evidence shows overwhelmingly that the Sri Lankan authorities were specifically attacking the Tamil population, the police force being agents in that attack, certainly by the way of torture and kidnapping.”