By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Navi Pilay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently released a report on the Sri Lankan central government’s failure to investigate widespread killings and other wartime atrocities committed by their military forces during the bloody, 25 year civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
Pilay is calling for independent, international criminal and forensic investigations to help rectify the situation in Sri Lankan. Experts and human rights groups say that the Sri Lankan military, who fought for the central government and population majority composed mainly of ethnic Sinhalese, murdered as many as 40,000 civilian, non-combatants in Tamil territory.
U.N. Secretary, General Ban Ki-moon, set up an expert panel whose study led to the exposure of the murders by the Sri Lankan military and the statistical figures. The Sri Lankan government, however, has rejected the reports alleging abuses and atrocities committed by their soldiers.
Pilay has also accused Sri Lanka of not implementing a system to relocate missing adults that disappeared during the latter stages of the civil war. Disappearances of thousands of citizens have gone uninvestigated and their perpetrators have not been arrested nor prosecuted for their crimes.
The Sri Lankan central government has devised plans for some of their own official, internal investigations on the alleged atrocities committed during the 25 year long civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa also said that the government never ordered attacks on civilian targets during the armed conflict.
Commissioner Navi Pilay, however, still believes that there are inaccuracies in the central government’s official investigations. Pilay cited a video broadcasted in 2009 which allegedly showed summary executions of Tamil prisoners by central government military forces as evidence for the necessity of independent investigations into the matter.
Pilay is calling for greater transparency and impartiality in the investigation process to get to the bottom of the abuses that may have been rampant during the violent conflict. Witnesses coming forward to testify as to the abuses carried out by the military, as well as the victims of the atrocities, also need protection in this investigatory process.
There have also been reports of new abductions as recent as 2011 and 2012. Political activities and members of their family have alleged been abducted, tortured, and in extreme cases, killed. The central government says that they have been looking into these alleged crimes.
Journalists from media outlets have also been harassed and attacked by the central government. I addition, human rights activists that took part in the U.N. Human Rights Council a year ago had also been attacked in public by government ministers.
Due to these recent public abuses, Sri Lanka has come under more pressure by Western states to take a look at the human rights situation in the country.
For further information, please see:
News Daily – Sri Lankan military inquiry says army did not shell civilians – 15 February 2013
Reuters – Sri Lanka’s wartime investigation lags as abuses persist: U.N. – 13 February 2013
The Star – Sri Lanka’s wartime investigation lags as abuses persist, U.N. says – 13 February 2013
The Washington Post – UN rights chief faults Sri Lanka probe of alleged wartime abuses – 13 February 2013