COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka rejected a call by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s civil war on Tuesday, saying it reflects a “preconceived, politicized and prejudicial agenda” against the island nation.
Pillay’s recommendation “gives scant or no regard to the domestic process” in Sri Lanka, the government’s statement said in response to a draft report that precedes the release next month of a UN Human Rights Council review of Sri Lanka’s progress in investigating alleged war crimes.
Pillay’s draft report, posted on the website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, comes as Sri Lanka is facing mounting international criticism for failing to investigate allegations of war crimes.
It recommended an “independent, credible criminal and forensic” investigation be conducted, with international assistance, into all alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including recently discovered mass graves. Pillay has also suggested a truth-seeking process be established, more steps taken to demilitarize the former war zone and that perpetrators of attacks on minorities, media and human rights defenders be arrested and punished.
However, the Sri Lankan government categorically rejected the conclusions and recommendations, saying Pillay’s report is biased and “tantamount to an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”
The report also came as United States is preparing to sponsor a third resolution at the UNHCR over Sri Lanka’s failure to properly investigate alleged atrocities and war crimes committed during the civil war against minority Tamil rebels. The US has successfully carried two resolutions urging Sri Lanka to conduct its own investigation into war crimes allegations against both government troops and the separatist Tamil rebels.
Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, after the government troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels who fought for a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamils in the island north and east.
While Sri Lanka has enjoyed relative peace since then, it hasn’t satisfied concerns, principally from Western nations, over the fate of tens thousands of Tamil civilians in the final months of the war in 2009, when government forces were closing in on cornered Tamil Tiger rebels.
A UN report previously said as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians died, mostly in government attacks, but Sri Lanka denies such a high toll and has repeatedly denied it deliberately targeted civilians.
For two years after the war, Sri Lanka’s government insisted that not a single civilian was killed. But later in 2011 it acknowledged some civilian deaths and announced a census of the war dead but its results were vague.
Government troops were accused of deliberately shelling civilians, hospitals and blocking food and medical aid to hundreds of thousands of people boxed inside a tiny strip of land as the rebels mounted their last stand. The rebels were accused of holding civilians as human shields, killing those who escaped their control and recruiting child soldiers.