War crimes in Lanka: Human Rights Watch seeks UN intervention

The Human Rights Watch today sought a UN authorised independent, international investigation into war crimes that took place during the final months of the decades-long armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

In a letter to members of the United Nations Human Rights Council today, the organisation said probe should be authorised at the March 2013 session of the UN body. Since the Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka at its March 2012 session calling for action, the Lankan government has taken no significant steps to provide justice for victims of abuse and accountability for those responsible, HRW said in a statement released here.

"Over the past year the Sri Lankan government has alternated between threatening activists who seek justice and making small, cynical gestures to keep the international community at bay," Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams said.

"The Human Rights Council should dismiss these tactics, end the delays and authorise an independent, international investigation into the estimated 40,000 civilian deaths at the conflict's end," he added.

The HRW statement said that on February 11 this year, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a highly critical report on the Lankan government's failure to provide justice and accountability and urged "an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."

The rights body called on Human Rights Council members to support a resolution that would establish an international investigation under the high commissioner’s office, it said. Several independent institutions, including the UN Panel of Experts in its April 2011 report have reported numerous credible allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses committed by government forces and the LTTE cadres during the armed conflict that ended in 2009, the statement said.

However, the government has taken no significant steps to undertake impartial and credible investigations of these alleged violations, it added. "The authorities have not reported any criminal prosecutions for serious rights abuses committed during the final years of the conflict. Indeed, thus far impunity for these abuses has been total," the HRW statement said.

"Most disturbingly, an army court of inquiry set up by the government to look into these allegations issued a report on February 15, fully exonerating the army from any liability for civilian casualties," it added.

The statement said that on top of the government’s failings on justice and accountability, the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated since the March 2012 Human Rights Council session.

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