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Sri Lanka sees the end of international probes

By Our Political Correspondent

Sep 12, 2015 15:40 PM GMT+0530 | 13 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT - The United Nations Human Rights council has finalised its war crimes report formally ending international investigation against Sri Lanka, official sources said today.

The UN authorities shared two water-marked copies of the final report with the government of Sri Lanka on Friday on the eve of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s visit to Geneva for the opening of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions.

"The government has about five days to respond to the report," a government source said asking not to be named. "Sri Lanka's observations will also be included in the final version of the document that will be presented to the Council.”

The contents of the report or Colombo’s response were not immediately clear, but it is believed to contain a set of recommendations on addressing accountability issues and the troubling lapses on the part of successive governments.

Atrocities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are also expected to figure prominently in the final report which has chapters on some of the most controversial incidents such as the massacre of surrendering rebel leaders and shelling of hospitals.

"The investigators did not have to visit Sri Lanka because there was a wealth of evidence available abroad," a diplomatic source said. 

Three internationally respected figures headed the investigation launched in June last year following the US-led resolution in March 2014 forcing a foreign investigation after Colombo resisted calls for a credible local inquiry.

Former Finnish president and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari served as an advisor to the international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

He was joined by Silvia Cartwright, a former governor general and high court judge in New Zealand who is serving as a judge in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal.

The third member is Asma Jahangir, a former president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association and of the country's Human Rights Commission, who was also part of a UN team investigating Israeli settlements last year.

Their report was due to be unveiled in march this year, but the UN delayed it giving more time for President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide their inputs into the final document.

"In the past two to three months, the government has been working on establishing a domestic mechanism that is acceptable to all," a government source said.

"Rhere is an abundance of international good will for the country and we want to live up to that."

The government hopes that it will be able to spell out the broad outline of a domestic inquiry when the US moves another resolution, this time favouring Sri Lanka, before the end of the UNHRC sessions which starts Monday.

Last month, the US backed the new government's plans for a local inquiry into alleged wartime atrocities, reversing its demand for an international probe.

"What is most significant is that the UN report on Sri Lanka this month will be the last international investigation," a Colombo-based Western diplomat said.

Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal said last month that the US wants to sponsor a resolution at the September UN rights session backing Colombo's plans that were outlined by officials.

The US has led efforts at the UN Human Rights Council for three resolutions against Sri Lanka, with the last one calling for an international probe into the alleged abuses.

But Biswal said there was new optimism for reconciliation over Sri Lanka's wartime past, after President Sirisena ousted long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse at elections in January and again at a parliamentary election in August.

Washington had an uneasy relationship with Rajapakse, who staunchly defied Western pressure to investigate allegations of atrocities.

Rajapakse had insisted that not a single civilian was killed by troops under his command during the decades-long conflict.

The UN estimated that at least 40,000 ethnic minority Tamil civilians perished in the final months of fighting between troops and Tamil rebels that ended in 2009.

Since coming to power in January, Sirisena has vowed to pursue reconciliation efforts with Tamils and said he is ready to work with the international community on an investigation. (Colombo/Sept12/2015


 

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13 Comments

  1. Rohan-Perera September 13, 05:45 AM

    Sarah J: I like your thinking. You are right. so if Tamils should have stayed in Tamil nadu, the Sinhalese should have also stayed back in their original land of Orissa No wonder the Vedda people are complaining.

  2. Rohan Perera September 13, 04:37 AM

    Conchshell: Youare quite ill informed. I don't blame you. You may nothave followed every statement of HE Mahinda Rajapaksa. Please check his June 2010 Victory day speech which BTW was a reapt of the June 2009 speech when he said our soldiers did not kill a single civilian. Our troops carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the human rights charter in the other. Of course, two years later, the Rajapaksa administration tried to backtrack with people like professor Rajiv Wijesinghe saying that about 2,200 civilians were killed by security forces, most of them accidentally. Then by 2012 february, the government announced findings of a census in the war torn area saying that about 8,000 people, inclduing 550 children were killed in the first four months of 2009 in Wanni alone. I think it is not a question of 40,000 were killed or 8,000 were killed. even if one civilian was killed, it is one too many.The nation will suffer a collective curse unless it makes amends. Since the Rajapaksa regime maintains that they had a policy of zero civilian casualties, it is easy to punish anyone soldier, official or politician who violated this policy.Lets see if the Sirisena Wickremesinghe government has the courage to address accountability, not only for the Tamil victims, but all the victims in Sri Lanka. That includes soldiers who were sent to their deaths knowning fully well that they were just cannon fodder.

  3. Sarah J September 13, 10:52 AM

    when people change countries always problems ocur. Tamils should stay in tamil Nadu.

  4. Amara September 13, 10:51 AM

    Tamils never stop. They cannot live in peace. same like Muslims

  5. vichara September 13, 07:12 AM

    The UN estimated that at least 40,000 ethnic minority Tamil civilians perished .This statement is a blatant distortion of the report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary General of the UN. It is no a United Nations report as claimed by the writer. Moreover, this report did not make the above quoted statement. What the report said was that the number of deaths may exceed 40,000.

  6. Sad for Sri-Lanka September 13, 06:41 AM

    There is no point in expecting the US state to improve the way Sri Lanka's state treats its own citizens. A state is simply a machinery which has a monopoly on violence through its military and police.
    The US state is not allowed to mistreat its own citizens by a strong constitution written by people who knows how harmful a state can be as well as a people oriented media.
    But it is a constant on going struggle.When Associated Press exposed the Mai Lai massacre the state tried to cover it up. But many ordinary US citizens condemned it even if the victims foreigners'. I don't know about redneck anti immigration nationalists but many others.
    They did not support the armed people against unarmed civilians even if they were foreign. Even now it is the mainly US foreign media and increasingly Al Jazeera who were originally the aborted Arabic service of BBC that are exposing the civilian deaths due to US bombing. The New Yorker exposed Abu Graib.
    We as a society are backward and tribal still. The comments here show that. I am saddened. Even if 40,000 was not the correct number and it was 5,000 or 10,000 or 35,000 don't you want to know how many fellow countrymen were killed In any case it cannot be 5,000 it must be 5354, or 35,354 or something like that. The 5,354th person is also a person.
    He lived like you, he breathed like you. May be even read the internet and put comments like you. Maybe he/she didn't. May be it was a kid. But he/she deserves to be counted as part of the cost of this destructive conflict. Remember he does not even have a tombstone. One of the first steps that lifted the original gatherer people into civilization was burial rights. It signified a belief in an afterlife.
    That you should treat people weaker than you justly even if you had the power and the arrow or axe to kill, because there may be a reckoning some day.
    Don't you want to know how many soldiers died? At least so that we know the price our countrymen paid So that at least we can stop this from happening again Where does this hate end?

  7. Dr Quintus Kalpage September 13, 04:24 AM

    The USA has been responsible for thousands of innocent casualties that were committed by their forces in wars that they engineered in foreign countries. In Sri Lanka casualties were created during a terrorist war carried out by armed insurgents encouraged by India and the USA. Sri Lanka does not have to defend its actions. The USA and India have to defend theirs.Sri Lanka needs a strong man like the former President who would not cow down to the strong arm tactics of these so called superpowers.

  8. Raja September 12, 09:48 AM

    These reports keep misreporting facts. Contrary to what this report says, UN never ever claimed that 40,000 civilians were killed. This is an unsubstantiated figure that was created by a single disgruntled UN junior officer Gordon Weisse. Secondly, the SL Government claim was that the policy of the Govt was zero civilian deaths, which is not the same as saying no civilian got killed. Why cant these reports stick to the truth

  9. S de Silva September 12, 08:35 AM

    Thank you Conchell for stating the truth and the SL failure to use the term 'collateral damage' liberally used by the US so much for the imbeciles running our Foreign Missions

  10. assupisela September 12, 08:12 AM

    The reality was not how many civilians or the casualties during the later part of the 3 decades long civil war It was MR leadership in Sri Lanka which USA could not digest for the last 10 years. USA don't care how many people get killed any where in the world except their own citizens. As far as a peaceful regime change or the hated leaderto USA eliminate by or means they are happy. After 9/11 they took the revenge out of Sadam Husain now that country was gone with him, Gadhafi the same that country too gone not to mentioned many leaders with their countries ground zero condition as far as USA is at peace and the god in their favour they are happy they don't mine other countries get the dogs favour.

  11. My-name-is-Zero September 12, 08:00 AM

    If it was said that there was collateral damage it would have been credible. Look at this Forces maintained Zero Casualties at all times.http://www.defence.lk/new.aspfname2010091201This is not like some American saying some foreigners say Sri Lankans died in a war. It is our own people.

  12. MAH September 12, 07:44 AM

    Another error needs pointing. The UN did estimate 40,000 ethnic Tamils perished at the end of the war. This number was an estimate based on simulation founded by no facts on the ground by a journalist. The UN, the Red Cross and the Sri Lankan governments figures were much lower, around 7,000 and there was no way to differentiate the deaths of LTTE and civilian Tamils. Furthermore, there was no way to say how many died at the hands of the LTTE themselves, through collatoral damage, or by indescriminate killing by Government troops. This figure has been repeated by the press far too long, hopefully it will not show up in the this UN report. If it does, the team involved will not be taken seriously by people who have been following this conflict for many years.

  13. Conchshell September 12, 05:22 AM

    MR never said that not a single civilian was killed by troops under his command during the decades long conflict, but that it was collateral damage

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