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The United Nations Human Rights Council today voted to open an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final stages of a decades-long conflict that ended in 2009.
Adopted by a vote of 23 in favour to 12 against with 12 abstentions, the Geneva-based Council requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a “comprehensive investigation” into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations “with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability.”
The Sri Lankan Government declared victory over the rebel LTTE in May 2009, after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people. The final months of the conflict had generated concerns about alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
By its action today, the Council reiterated its call on the Government to implement the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
It also called on the Government to release publicly the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya in August 2013, and the report of 2013, by the court of inquiry of the Sri Lanka Army.
In her address to the Council yesterday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed the need to ensure justice and accountability, including through the establishment of an independent and credible investigation, saying: “This is essential to advance the right to truth for all in Sri Lanka and create further opportunities for justice, accountability and redress.”
She noted that in recent years, the Government has established various mechanisms with the task to investigate past violations. “But none have had the independence to be effective or inspire confidence among victims and witnesses,” she stated.
At the same time, new evidence continues to emerge, and witnesses are willing to come forward to testify before international mechanisms in which they have confidence and which can guarantee their protection, the High Commissioner added.
“This shows that an international inquiry is not only warranted, but also possible, and can play a positive role in eliciting new information and establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed.”
The Council has in the past called on the Sri Lankan Government to take credible steps to ensure accountability for alleged serious violations committed during the final months of the conflict.
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Tamils living world over should take a careful note on who is skipping away from including the demand for an ‘international investigation’ in the draft resolution to be placed at the UN Human Rights Council this March, Tamil activists in the island told TamilNet on Tuesday. The diaspora Tamils and Tamils of Tamil Nadu should not be carried away by the ‘media discourse’ in Colombo following the latest recommendations of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanetham Pillay, the activists warned. The latest phrase ‘international inquiry mechanism’ could also imply a process of questioning or fact-finding mission by UN Special Rapporteurs under the human rights regime of the UNHRC, which would only end up adding just another report to the existing piles of UN reports. Tamil lobbyists abroad should not deceive the masses by their misinterpretations of the terminology, the activists said.
An ‘international investigation’, which Tamils demand is a mechanism that comes under an existing international court or a UN special tribunal constituted to the specific purpose of investigating the alleged crime of genocide against Eezham Tamils, an act that should be taken up by the UN Security Council.
A resolution in the UNHRC calling for international investigation would clearly place the responsibility at the hands of the UN Security Council.
The question is whether the draft resolution would have a specific and legally binding demand on ‘international investigation’.
The USA is not prepared to add the demand for international investigation in its draft resolution, informed diplomatic sources in Colombo said at the time of this writing.
At this juncture, Eezham Tamils in UK should demand the British government to prove its credibility by placing a draft resolution calling for international investigations as the British Prime Minister David Cameron has earlier gone on record stating that he would be calling for international investigations on Sri Lanka, the Tamil activists in the island said.
In 2013 February, Ms Navi Pillay came with the following paragraph at the end of her recommendations in the annual report (A/HRC/22/38):
“64. The High Commissioner noted the views expressed by many stakeholders in Sri Lanka, including prominent community leaders, that the attention paid by the Human Rights Council to issues of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka had helped to create space for debate, and catalyzed positive steps forward, however limited at this stage. The High Commissioner encourages the Council to continue its engagement and build on this momentum. In this regard, she reaffirms her long-standing call for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, which could also monitor any domestic accountability process.”
In 2014 February, Navi Pillay’s report has come with the following paragraph in the beginning of her recommendations in the latest annual report (A/HRC/25/23):
“74. The High Commissioner recommends that the Human Rights Council establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and monitor any domestic accountability processes. OHCHR stands ready to assist in such a process.”
India and Sri Lanka are linked by an unbreakable historical bond as they share a common religion in Buddhism, the Indian High Commissioner here said today.
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