Amnesty International Media Release
(Washington, D.C.) A United Nations (U.N.) report on accountability for war crimes committed in the Sri Lankan armed conflict must be made public, Amnesty International said today as a panel of experts submits their findings to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“Sri Lankans must be allowed to see the panel’s findings. The report concerns a critical period in their recent history and they deserve to read it in full,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “Ban Ki-moon said that ‘accountability is an essential foundation for durable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.’ He must stick to his word – accounting for violations committed in the recent conflict is the first step to future reconciliation.”
The U.N. Panel of Experts was appointed in June 2010 to advise the Secretary General on accountability issues relating to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law alleged in the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended in May 2009.
The panel was also asked to recommend a course of action that would ensure accountability, in line with a joint commitment made by President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and Ban Ki-moon on his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009.
Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to launch an independent international investigation into alleged crimes, which include the killing of more than 10,000 civilians; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s use of civilians as human shields and conscription of child soldiers; Sri Lankan army shelling of areas densely populated by civilians; and severe deprivation of food, water and medical care for people trapped by fighting.
The Sri Lankan government protested appointment of the U.N. panel as “uncalled for and unwarranted” and refused to fully cooperate.
“The panel’s work on accountability issues in Sri Lanka should mark the beginning, not the end, of a process of accounting for violations,” said Zarifi.
For decades, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) systematically targeted civilians, launched suicide attacks at buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics and recruited child soldiers.
Sri Lankan government forces and their armed affiliates also acted with impunity, engaging in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torturing those suspected of links to the LTTE.
“Impunity for violations has been the rule throughout Sri Lanka’s long civil war. The way to turn a new page in the country’s history and restore public confidence is to deliver truth and justice,” said Zarifi. “By publicizing the panel of expert’s report, and moving toward an independent, international accountability mechanism, the UN would send a strong message that international law is relevant, and would reinforce trends of accountability for human rights violations globally.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.