UN chief calls for Sri Lanka war crimes probe

[TamilNet, Saturday, 06 June 2009, 18:37 GMT]
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Friday called for an international inquiry into war crimes in northern Sri Lanka and sought the Colombo government’s agreement, press reports said. At a closed-door briefing for UN Security Council members, Mr. Ban called for a credible inquiry to be undertaken with international backing and full support from Sri Lanka's government, AP reported. He declined to elaborate on exactly how the inquiry should be done, but urged an examination of serious allegations of violations of international humanitarian laws, according to diplomats and UN officials who attended. Ban also told the council that Sri Lanka must refrain from any victory dance after defeating the LTTE.

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General
Ba Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
"Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective," Mr. Ban told reporters Friday at UN headquarters.

"I would like to ask the Sri Lankan government to recognize the international call for accountability and full transparency," AP quoted him as saying

"And whenever and wherever there are credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law, there should be a proper investigation."

However, Sri Lanka has rejected either an international or joint investigation, saying civil war is a domestic issue.

However, Sri Lanka’s human rights minister Mahinda Samarasinghe doubted if the UN chief actually meant to call for an international investigation.

"He is not talking about an international probe at all," Mr. Samarasinghe said.

The UN Security Council met informally Friday rather than in its usual chambers to allow Sri Lanka's UN Ambassador Hewa M.G.S. Palihakkara to attend without requiring a formal agenda item, AP also reported.

Mr. Ban warned the Sri Lankan government against engaging in celebrations, as Colombo reveled in its military defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

"I take this opportunity to warn against the risk of triumphalism, which will really hinder the ongoing efforts by the Sri Lankan government, the people and the international community in helping to heal the wounds," he was quoted by the Times of India as saying. "This is very important at this time to unite and heal the wounds rather than enjoy in celebrations in the wake of the end of the conflict," he said.

Mr. Ban said he had asked the Sri Lankan government to provide relief groups and the United Nations free access to the tens of thousands of Sri Lankans who are in need of assistance.

It is the first time Mr. Ban has called for investigations into the what Human Rights Watch has called the “slaughter” of Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan artillery in northern Sri Lanka.

The United States has protested Colombo’s “indiscriminate” shelling of a narrow sliver of land packed with Tamil civilians.

UN officials told The Times of London and France’s Le Monde that they knew 20,000 civilians had been massacred.

In recent weeks, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has repeatedly said serious violation of international humanitarian law in northern Sri Lanka warranted international investigation.

Last Thursday Pillay, a former war crimes judge for Sierre Leone, said that the UN stands ready to support an inquiry into abuses in Sri Lanka's civil war.

"I believe that accountability is a prerequisite for the attainment of justice and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans and, thus, a foundation for lasting peace," she said.


External Links:
Aljazeera: UN chief urges Sri Lanka inquiry Ban Ki-moon recently visited the warzone to see how civilians were affected by the fighting

 

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