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HR groups say report fails to address accountability

UN Studying LLRC Report
 Easwaran Rutnam
The United Nations (UN) says it is studying the final report of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which was made public on Friday December 16. Leading international human rights groups, meanwhile, said the report fell short of addressing accountability issues including the ‘white flag’ incident.

The much anticipated report of the LLRC was presented to parliament on Friday and was also subsequently placed in the public domain. UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York yesterday that UN Secretary Ban ki-moon was studying the report in order to make a statement.
He noted, however, that the Secretary-General continues to believe that UN Member States should take seriously the findings in the UN experts panel report, also known as the ‘Darusman report’ which was made public earlier this year.
The US based Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, said the LLRC report disregards the worst abuses by government forces, rehashes longstanding recommendations, and fails to advance accountability for victims of Sri Lanka’s civil armed conflict.
The serious shortcomings of the 388-page report highlight the need for an international investigative mechanism into the conflict as recommended by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts in April, HRW said.
While the UN Panel of Experts recommended the establishment of an independent international mechanism to conduct investigations into the alleged violations, the LLRC report provides no realistic pathway for holding accountable military and government officials implicated in serious abuses.
“Governments and UN bodies have held back for the past 18 months to allow the Sri Lankan commission to make progress on accountability,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said. “The commission’s failure to provide a road map for investigating and prosecuting wartime perpetrators shows the dire need for an independent, international commission.”
HRW noted that among the many omissions, the LLRC report does not examine allegations that government forces executed several LTTE leaders who attempted to surrender to the government during the last days of the war in what has been called the “white flag” incident.
The report limits its analysis of the so-called Channel 4 video, which appears to show government soldiers executing handcuffed and blindfolded prisoners, to a technical discussion of the video’s authenticity without mentioning the government’s admission that its forces killed a young woman visible in the footage, HRW said.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, said the final report of the LLRC acknowledges serious human rights problems in Sri Lanka but falls short of fully addressing the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the final phases of the conflict between the government and the LTTE.
“A preliminary review of the report suggests that it acknowledges the very serious human rights problems in Sri Lanka.  But where it appears to really falter is in ignoring the serious evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of the laws of war by government forces, even though the report highlights the serious and systematic violations committed by the LTTE,” Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director said.
Zarifi, however, admits the report offers some interesting recommendations about how to improve the overall human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
“The Sri Lankan government must now address the findings included in this report. It should report to the UN Human Rights Council at its next session in March 2012 on its measures to implement the report’s recommendations, including the need for further investigation of alleged violations of the laws of war, taking account of the findings and recommendations of the report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka,” Amnesty International said.


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