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Human Rights Groups Urge Investigation of Sri Lanka War Crimes

May 21st, 2010

WarCrimeSatelliteImagesHuman Rights groups, from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to the International Crisis Group, are calling for an independent investigation into war crimes by both sides during the traumatic end of the war between the LTTE and government forces one year ago.

In a report released on May 17th, a year after the war’s end, the International Crisis Group cited “reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes” by intentionally shelling civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations in a final push to destroy the separatist Tigers. In turn, the Tigers reportedly shot civilians who tried to flee rebel areas and held others captive in a bid to raise international pressure for a ceasefire.

The Brussels-based group, funded by donors and governments, called for a United Nations-backed inquiry to account for a Sri Lankan government victory over the Tigers that came “at the cost of immense civilian suffering and an acute challenge to the laws of war.” The report says that evidence collected by the group “suggests that these months saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women, children, and the elderly killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths.”

International Crisis Group report

Amnesty International is circulating a petition calling for an independent investigation

Human Rights Watch has collected additional evidence of possible summary executions and other abuses. These are detailed in a press release, which also calls for an independent investigation.

The Sri Lankan government announced the establishment of a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission on May 17th. The commission is widely considered to be window-dressing. It is only mandated to look into the failure of the 2002 ceasefire, which is largely unrelated to the massive abuses by both government forces and the LTTE in the final months of hostilities. Furthermore, the appointed Chairman of the Commission, Chitta Ranjan de Silva, is a former attorney general who was seriously criticized for his office’s alleged interference in the work of the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The Independent Group of Eminent Persons resigned in frustration in large part due to the role of the Attorney General.

The Sri Lanka government established a commission in November 2009 to examine allegations of war crimes laid out in a report by the US State Department, but no findings have been reported, despite an April 2010 deadline.

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