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SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT COULD BE GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES?


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan government’s final offensive in the country’s civil war, in actions that may amount to “crimes against humanity”, a UN inquiry has found. A panel of experts convened by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said “tens of thousands lost their lives” in shelling during the last five months before the 26-year war ended in May 2009.
  • Government forces “systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines” while also attacking UN facilities, food distribution points and areas close to Red Cross rescuers, the panel said in a report.
  • The attacks centred on three “no-fire zones”, where civilians had been told to gather, the panel found, adding that civilians were denied food and medical supplies while government critics were disappeared.
  • Fleeing civilians were stripped naked, raped and executed, according to the extensive 216-page report, which included graphic images as evidence of government offences.
  • The report was delayed for several days amid diplomatic wrangling. It will provoke fierce denunciation from Colombo, whose ministers have accused the UN of jeopardising their peace process.
Sri Lanka’s civil war started in 1983. The Tamil Tigers sought to create an independent Tamil state to the north of the island and launched an insurgency against the Sinhalese majority government.
The Tamils were finally defeated in May 2009, amid widespread reports contradicting the government’s insistence that it had launched a “humanitarian rescue mission” with “zero civilian casualties”.
  • The panel said the bloody reality of the final months was “in stark contrast” to this official line and that “credible allegations” indicated there had been multiple, serious breaches of human rights law.
  • Some of these “would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”, it said, including killing civilians by widespread shelling, shelling hospitals, denying access to aid and inflicting other violations.
  • The Sri Lankan government, which caused the delay to the report’s publication by repeatedly refusing to submit a response to the UN, remained officially silent.
The panel also criticised UN agencies that it said had “failed to take actions that might have protected civilians” in the final months of the civil war. Mr Ban said an internal review would be carried out.The panel, which said the opposition Tamil Tigers may also have committed crimes against humanity, called for a full war crimes inquiry.
A spokesman for Mr Ban said: “The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that this advisory report will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lankan Government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace.”
Source: Flash News Today
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