Tuesday, April 26, 2011

UN Report Confirms Sri Lankan Killings

The BBC has a story about the UN panel's report into the horrific violations of human rights during Sri Lanka's successful demolition of the LTTE: "hospitals, UN centres and ships belonging to international aid group the Red Cross were deliberately shelled by government forces.

It describes prisoners being shot in the head and women raped, while the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) used 330,000 civilians as human shields, and shot those who tried to escape.
The UN experts said there were "credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international rights law was committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity"."

I wrote about the Sri Lankan government's refusal to acknowledge responsibility in the Huffington Post just over a year ago: There are allegations that the media has been intimidated through killings, torture, disappearances and detentions. Accurate reporting is the casualty. Rajapaksa must realize that this is against his own self-interest and lift restrictions on the media. If the government truly has nothing to hide it can only benefit from sunshine.

Sri Lanka cannot go forward without erasing the taint of illegal killings and disappearances. The government's vociferous denials of wrongdoing have been dented by video and other evidence of troops executing bound captives; a UN expert confirmed that a mobile phone video showing one such killing was genuine after three forensic experts viewed the footage. There is evidence that some of these gross abuses were authorised at the very top: General Fonseka who was Rajapaksa's rival in the presidential elections claimed that execution orders had been issued by the defence secretary, who is the president's brother.
That article is available here.

Despite the new UN report, the government continues in its denials: "The Sri Lankan army is not responsible and [the] Sri Lankan government is not responsible," government spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle told the BBC.

"We never shelled or we never bombed. We never targeted innocent civilians. It's a wrong allegation and we can prove it," he said."

Sri Lanka knows that the UN is no more than a debating society: "Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he could not launch an international investigation into war crimes allegations unless the Sri Lankan government agreed, or member states called for it.

But the BBC's Barbara Plett, in New York, says that the country continues to have strong allies on both the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council."
Unless other international actors like the EU step up to the plate and back up their words with sanctions with bite, we can expect Sri Lanka to get away with denials and lies.