Colombo modifies position on UN panel of experts by allowing them to present evidence on alleged war crimes.
|The Tamil Tiger rebels were wiped out in a government offensive by the Sri Lankan military in May 2009 [AFP]|
The UN says a panel of experts set up to advise Ban Ki-moon, the organisation’s head, on possible war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka’s war against Tamil Tiger rebels has delivered its report to him.
The report by the three-member panel, whose appointment was strongly criticised by the Sri Lankan government, was not immediately made public.
Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the UN, said on Tuesday it was first being given to Sri Lanka and would be published soon.
He said Ban “will study the report carefully and will determine his next steps in the coming days”.
The panel is led by Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general. The other two members are Yasmin Sooka, a South African human rights expert, and Steven Ratner, an American lawyer. They began their work last September.
The UN panel was set up following a visit by Ban to Sri Lanka shortly after the end of the conflict.
The Sri Lankan government criticised the move as “an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation”.
The UN group’s official mandate called on it to examine “the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes” relating to the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.
War crimes denied
Government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009 after a quarter-century conflict that killed thousands of people. The end of the war displaced large numbers of people in the north of the island state.
Sri Lanka’s government denies any war crimes were committed but human-rights groups say both the government and the Tamil Tigers, who were seeking to set up a separate Tamil state, were guilty of rights violations.
Sri Lanka set up its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which human-rights groups have said lacks credibility and impartiality. The commission is due to report to the government next month.
A Sri Lankan government spokesman said last December the UN panel “will be given visas only to testify before the LLRC if they request [that] and not for any investigations”.
UN officials said they understood that because of that restriction, the UN panel had not visited Sri Lanka.
In a statement on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights monitor, said that almost two years after the war, Sri Lanka had “taken no steps to hold anyone on either side of the conflict accountable for serious violations of international law”.
Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, praised Ban’s decision to make the report public, saying it “will help move justice forward in Sri Lanka”.