UN genocide expert wants ceasefire, UN investigators want war probes

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 May 2009, 03:26 GMT]
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide, underscoring the toll the clashes are taking on Tamil civilians, said Friday that “it is not too late” for the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to end the conflict. Francis Deng called for both sides to “pursue a reconciliatory and peaceful path with the ethnic Tamil population.” Three UN special investigators have now called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the Sri Lankan conflict. Meanwhile, Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of Displaced Persons called on Colombo to allow the UN and other agencies “full and unfettered access to all civilians and detainees.”

“This polarizing conflict is identity-related with ethnicity and religion as deeply divisive factors,” Mr. Deng said.

“It will not end with winners and losers and it cannot be ended solely through a military victory that may not be sustainable in the long-run unless legitimate grievances are addressed.”

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Friday reiterated that the loss of civilian life and the situation of those trapped in the conflict zone are unacceptable, deploring the use of heavy weapons and of civilians as human shields.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today that it believes that an independent commission of inquiry is needed given the conduct of this war and the number of civilians who have been killed.

Mr. Deng underscored that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to “excesses of conflict,” stressing that the Government is legally obligated to give them special protection.

Mr. Kälin also expressed his concern over the dire living conditions in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who escaped the conflict

“I call on the LTTE to let the remaining civilians go and both sides to agree to humanitarian pauses for that purpose as well as to allow humanitarian access to bring in much-needed food and medicines and evacuate the wounded,” Representative Kälin said.

Both sides are obligated to follow international humanitarian law, he emphasized.

“Even if one party to the conflict is deliberately using civilians as human shields, the other party is still prohibited from carrying out attacks that are indiscriminate in their consequences or result in a disproportional loss of civilian life.”

Two months ago, the UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, called on the Sri Lankan government and LTTE to immediately suspend hostilities, warning the number of civilian deaths could reach catastrophic levels.

The LTTE announced a unilateral ceasefire on April 26, but Sri Lanka rejected it as "a joke" and intensified bombardment of the sliver of land where over 160,000 civilians were concentrated.

The High Commissioner's spokesman, Rupert Colville, three U.N. special investigators recently called for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the Sri Lankan conflict.

"We agree that something of that sort is now essential," said Colville. "There has to be accountability of what has gone on in Sri Lanka. There has to be clarity and there cannot be impunity."

 

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