UN rights office gets mandate to document Sri Lanka war crimes

The resolution received 22 votes in favour and 11 against, including China and Pakistan, and 14 abstentions including India.

UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet, has slammed Sri Lanka's government for reneging on promises to deliver justice to war victims [File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution giving UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet a mandate to collect and preserve information and evidence of war crimes committed during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which ended in 2009.

The erosion of judicial independence, marginalisation of minorities and impunity in Sri Lanka came up for criticism in the resolution, which received 22 votes in favour with 11 against, including China and Pakistan, and 14 abstentions, including India.

The resolution, which was brought by the UK on behalf of a core group of countries, expressed particular concern that the island’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated the prevailing marginalisation of and discrimination against the Muslim community”.

It also highlighted “accelerating militarisation of civilian government functions”, “the erosion of the independence of the judiciary”, and “increased marginalisation” of Tamil and Muslim minorities.

Last month, Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that 12 years after the end of armed conflict in the South Asian island nation, domestic efforts to ensure justice for victims have failed.

“Despite commitments made in 2015, the current government, like its predecessor, has failed to pursue genuine truth-seeking or accountability processes,” she said.

“The impact on thousands of survivors, from all communities, is devastating. Moreover, the systems, structures, policies and personnel that gave rise to such grave violations in the past remain – and have recently been reinforced.”

The decades-long civil war between the Sri Lankan security forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers killed about 100,000 people, including up to 40,000 Tamil civilians killed by the Sri Lankan forces in the final phases of the war. The government has denied the charge.

UN reports have accused Sri Lankan troops of shelling hospitals and carrying out indiscriminate aerial bombardments, executing surrendering rebels and causing the disappearance of thousands of minority Tamils.

Source: Reuters