Geneva: A landmark UNHRC report released on Wednesday, found that both government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels had committed “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole,” which it said could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United Nations on Wednesday called on Sri Lanka to set up a special court, including international judges and lawyers, to investigate what it called “horrific” abuses committed by both sides during the country’s 26-year civil war and by the government in the suppression of critics and opponents after it ended. The creation of a special, hybrid court, involving Sri Lankan and international jurists, prosecutors and investigators, was just one proposed step in a process of far-reaching institutional reform that the United Nations said would be essential to achieving the reconciliation that has eluded the country since the civil war ended in 2009.
“Our investigation has laid bare the horrific level of violations and abuses that occurred in Sri Lanka, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, recruitment of children and other grave crimes,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ top human rights official, said in a statement accompanying the report.
A core team of seven investigators produced The 261-page report and a 19-page overview with advice from three prominent international judicial experts. Sri Lanka’s former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who commanded the armed forces in the closing years of the civil war did his best to block the investigation and now with the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January UN authorities are hopeful of progress and justice for the victims. His government has offered to introduce a domestic process for reconciliation, which the report called commendable, but said that Sri Lanka would “require more than a domestic mechanism.”
Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system “is not yet ready or equipped,” it said, to conduct a credible investigation that would deal with the legacy of anger and skepticism left by the previous government, as well as the sheer scale and gravity of the violations committed during the conflict.
“Ending the impunity enjoyed by the security forces and associated paramilitary groups, as well as holding to account surviving members” of the Tamil Tigers “will require political will” to ensure that such crimes do not recur, the report said.