Sri Lanka said Saturday that Amnesty International comments on the island’s probe into its military victory over Tamil rebels, were an “interference” in the country’s sovereignty.
Amnesty International on Wednesday said Sri Lanka’s inquiry panel was “flawed at every level” and no substitute for an international war crimes investigation.
The human rights watchdog issued a 69-page report slamming the work of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) ahead of next week’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, expected to discuss Sri Lanka.
Tamara Kunanayakam, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva said Amnesty has “acted as a self-appointed judge” when the LLRC’s final report is due only on November 15.
“The pre-judgment of the Commission’s (LLRC) outcome is unacceptable and unwarranted, and is to be considered as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” Kunanayakam said in a statement released in Colombo.
The report cited eyewitness testimony and information from aid workers suggesting that at least 10,000 civilians were killed in the final military offensive that crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.
It accused the Sri Lankan army of shelling areas it knew to be densely populated by civilians, and also condemned the rebels for using non-combatants as a human shield.
The report, entitled “When will they get justice?”, said the LLRC, set up by the Sri Lankan government to review the final stages of the offensive, was “flawed at every level: in mandate, composition and practice”.
Amnesty said that the LLRC was just the latest in a long line of failed domestic inquiries.
Kunanayakam said Amnesty demonstrated “bad faith” by refusing an October 2010 invitation to testify before the LLRC.
She brushed aside Amnesty’s claims that a number of ex-government officials on the commission, had failed to investigate evidence of systematic violations, including illegal killings and enforced disappearances.
“It is evident that the real aim of those questioning the legitimacy of LLRC is to undermine the principle of state sovereignty,” she said adding that international laws allow domestic inquiries to be exhausted first.
An April report by a panel commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted “credible allegations” of war crimes committed by both sides. Colombo denied these allegations, maintaining troops did not kill a single civilian.
Sri Lanka’s state media reported that Colombo’s delegation to next week’s Human Rights Council sessions would “enlighten” the UN on the government’s achievements “ranging from protection of human rights to development.”
In the past, Colombo has managed to stave off censure at UN forums thanks to the support of close allies China and Russia, but a vote at the Human Rights Council cannot be blocked by veto-wielding powers.