by Human Rights Watch, May 20, 2014
(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should comply with the March 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council resolution creating an international investigation into allegations of serious abuses by both sides during Sri Lanka’s civil war, Human Rights Watch said today. The resolution calls on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate violations of the laws of war and serious human rights violations. The week of May 18 marks the fifth anniversary of the end of the conflict that resulted in the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“The Sri Lankan government denounced the Human Rights Council resolution, yet for five long years it has failed to act on its promises to investigate and bring to justice wartime atrocities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The government should finally accept the council’s vote and assist the investigation, which represents the best hope yet for victims awaiting justice.”
The Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has resisted taking meaningful steps to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes by government forces and the LTTE as recommended by Human Rights Council resolutions in 2012 and 2013.
Government rhetoric and arbitrary arrests against Sri Lankan activists who advocate for accountability have increased in recent years. The government has also widened its crackdown against the independent media and human rights defenders. There have been further reports of abuses, including torture and sexual violence, against suspected LTTE supporters in custody. While various government development, resettlement, and reconstruction projects have been undertaken in former warzones in the north and east, government pledges to address the concerns of the ethnic Tamil population have gone largely unfulfilled. The government has also prohibited simple gestures, such as allowing Tamil communities to hold commemorative services for their dead, or to sing the national anthem in Tamil.
The Human Rights Council resolution calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a “comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes” as well as to monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and “to continue to assess progress on relevant national processes.” It calls upon the high commissioner to provide an oral update on its findings during the 27th session of the council in September 2014, and a thorough report during the 28thsession in March 2015. The resolution also calls on the Sri Lankan government to address ongoing rights abuses as well as deliver justice and accountability in parallel with the high commissioner’s investigation.
“This is the third council resolution on Sri Lanka in three years and reflects the impatience of the international community to see justice done,” Adams said. “The resolution is not only a huge step forward for conflict-era accountability, but it also acknowledges that ongoing abuses need to stop.”