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Govt. reverses policy on war crimes probe in secret, says UNP

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  • UNP says if Govt. took this position earlier, ‘colossal damage’ to the country could have been averted
  • People have a right to know why, says main Opposition
  • Govt. consistently maintained no war crime probes necessary since Lankan troops did not commit them

The main opposition United National Party has accused the Government of a stealthy reversal of its policy on probing alleged war crimes by surreptitiously taking steps to launch a domestic investigation using foreign expert advisors in the face of mounting international pressure.
Issuing a statement yesterday, the UNP, which previously offered the Government support to launch a domestic inquiry to ward off international action, said the Government was now concurring with the views of the international community that a war crimes investigation was necessary.
“If such a position which the UNP repeatedly requested was taken years earlier, there is no gainsaying that colossal damage to the country would have been averted. It could have also brought to question the validity of the current international investigation,” the main Opposition charged in its statement released to the media yesterday.
The UNP has faulted President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his UPFA Government for changing its policy on the issue in secret, without letting the people know the reasons for the reversal.
“The UNP notes with serious concern that this course of action has been without any recourse to the Cabinet of Ministers. If indeed they were briefed, this has not been made public. Nor has the UPFA Government informed Parliament,” the UNP statement asserted.
The statement noted that since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), over five years ago, the UPFA Government has consistently maintained that no war crime probes were necessary since Sri Lankan troops have not committed any of them.
“Addressing the nation on Victory Day, President Rajapaksa has repeatedly reiterated that the troops fought with the UN Human Rights Charter in one hand and a gun in the other. At last year’s elections to Southern and Western Provincial Councils, he exhorted from public platforms that he would rather face the ‘electric chair’ than betray the troops of Sri Lanka,” the statement continued.
The UNP said that it was ironic that the ruling Government sought to obtain the support of Opposition political parties in Parliament last month, against the UN probe into the last seven years of the war.
“Having sought unsuccessfully to obtain the support of the Opposition to stall an OHCHR investigation saying it was detrimental to peace and reconciliation, the UPFA Government has surreptitiously taken measures to conduct a domestic investigation. In doing so, it has chosen to ignore the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament and the people of Sri Lanka. Why are they hiding the truth from the public?” the statement charged.
“Worse enough, the MPs who voted in favour of the resolution now stand exposed,” the statement said.
The UNP said it strongly believes the public should also know whether the actions are in the best interests of Sri Lanka or “are the outcome of ignorant, shady but powerful brokers who are on an adventure wrapping up secret diplomatic deals behind the backs of the people”.


Three international experts tapped to assist with UN-mandated Sri Lanka conflict probe

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25 June 2014 – Three distinguished experts have agreed to advise the United Nations-mandated investigation into alleged human rights violations committed during the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

The experts are former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand Silvia Cartwright and former President of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission Asma Jahangir.

“I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task,” she added in a news release.

The Sri Lankan Government declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people.

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Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action - International Crisis Group

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Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action

Asia Report N°24320 Feb 2013



Government attacks on the judiciary and political dissent have accelerated Sri Lanka’s authoritarian turn and threaten long-term stability and peace. The government’s politically motivated impeachment of the chief justice reveals both its intolerance of dissent and the weakness of the political opposition. By incapacitating the last institutional check on the executive, the government has crossed a threshold into new and dangerous terrain, threatening prospects for the eventual peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections. Strong international action should begin with Sri Lanka’s immediate referral to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and a new resolution from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) calling for concrete, time-bound actions to restore the rule of law, investigate rights abuses and alleged war crimes by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and devolve power to Tamil and Muslim areas of the north and east.





Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:52

The UN’s ‘grave failure’ in Sri Lanka demands an answer

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The UN’s ‘grave failure’ in Sri Lanka demands an answer


It’s been called Ban Ki-moon’s Rwanda moment: a little-reported war three years ago on a tiny Indian Ocean island where tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered, waiting for the United Nations to come and rescue them.

What happened in Sri Lanka in 2009 has come back to haunt the UN with the leak of an internal inquiry commissioned by the Secretary-General. The independent report concluded that the UN’s own conduct during the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war marked a “grave failure.” There was damning criticism of senior staff, who “simply did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility.”

Would the entire report have seen the light of day if a draft hadn’t been leaked to the BBC? A reluctant UN in New York had to publish the document, but chose to do so without its powerful executive summary that set the conflict in the context of post-9/11 global attitudes to terrorism that tragically skewed the reporting of the bloodshed. Internal communications show senior UN officials struggling to portray the proscribed terrorist group, the Tamil Tigers, as the ones primarily to blame for the killings.

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AI index: ASA 37/009/2012

13 June 2012

The Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka, June 2012

A statement for the June Human Rights Council Session

Sri Lanka is not fulfilling many of its international human rights obligations.  Impunity remains

the norm for gross violations of human rights, including alleged war crimes. Gross and

systematic human rights violations continue to take place. Sri Lanka’s armed conflict ended in

2009, but its legacy of unlawful detention practices continues; arbitrary arrest and detention,

torture and other ill-treatment and custodial killings remain hallmarks of Sri Lankan policing.

The number of reports of enforced disappearances in the past six months is alarming; political

activists critical of the state continue to be victims. Intimidation and smear campaigns against

human rights defenders and journalists in government-owned newspapers have included

attacks on individuals advocating for human rights accountability before this Council.

Full Report



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