Geneva, September 16 The United Nations today detailed the horrific abuses committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, including the disappearance of tens of thousands of people, and said the country needed international help to probe war crimes and enable reconciliation. “A purely domestic court procedure will simply not succeed in overcoming the widespread and justifiable suspicions fuelled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told reporters in Geneva. The country, he said, needed international assistance to address the “horrific level of violations and abuses” during and following Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, revealed in a long-awaited report. The report identified patterns of grave violations “strongly indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity” had been committed by both sides. Among other abuses, it found that tens of thousands of Sri Lankans remained missing after decades of conflict, suggesting enforced disappearances had been part of a systematic policy. Sri Lanka’s new unity government has promised dramatic reforms to achieve accountability for alleged atrocities during the war with the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, which ended in 2009 and killed at least 100,000 people. The government, which is planning various measures to ensure reconciliation, including the creation of a truth commission, had been hoping to win UN backing for a domestic probe. But while acknowledging the positive steps taken by the new government, the report concluded that “Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system is not yet ready or equipped” to conduct an independent and credible investigation. Instead, it urged the country to establish a “hybrid special court”, including international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, to probe war-related abuses. Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said it had taken note of the findings, and said it was encouraged by the “recognition of the efforts of the new government,” and said it would “take all possible measures to ensure non-recurrence” of conflict. Zeid said the change in tone from the new government provided hope that “truly fundamental change” was possible. But he warned that “years of denials and cover-ups, ... stalled investigations and reprisals against the family members of victims” had taken their toll. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January promising reconciliation and accountability for alleged atrocities committed by troops under the command of then-president Mahinda Rajapakse. During his decade in power, Rajapakse resisted western pressure to investigate allegations that his troops killed up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the final months of the conflict in 2009. Today’s report, which looked specifically at the period between 2002 and 2011, described widespread illegal killings by both sides and a deliberate policy by Sri Lankan security forces to use rape and sexual violence as torture against both women and men. It found that children were often abducted by separatists and sent to the front lines as soldiers, while a group linked to the government had also recruited children. Zeid warned that without examining its past the country risked falling back into conflict. A major problem identified by the report was lack of any reliable system for protecting victims and witnesses, while the culture that had allowed police and security services to act with “near total impunity” remained deeply entrenched. It urged a “fully-fledged vetting process to remove from office security forces personnel and public officials suspected of involvement in human rights violations”.
UN wants Int’l judges in Lanka war crimes court
Published: 10:52 am Sep 17, 2015