A new investigation suggests that the Sri Lankan Government may have sought systematically to exhume and destroy evidence of mass civilian deaths. With no adequate form of accountability emerging from within Sri Lanka, the report highlights the need for a full international investigation.
The report “Island of impunity? Investigation into international crimes in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war” published today by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) gives a picture of grave violations of international law committed in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.
The PIAC says, the report will assist the UN Human Rights Council in considering how to ensure accountability for allegations of atrocities committed in the final stages of the civil war.
“Although violations were committed by both sides, the evidentiary material indicates that members of the Sri Lankan Security Forces perpetrated the vast majority of alleged crimes during the investigation period.” the report said.
The International Crimes Evidence Project (ICEP), a project of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), was established to provide key decision-makers with independent and credible analysis of alleged violations of international law committed in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war (September 2008 to May 2009).
According to the ICEP, the investigation is independent of all parties to the conflict, and has been guided solely by the evidentiary material uncovered with expert advice and assistance from ICEP’s independent Committee of Experts comprises John Ralston (Chair), Professor Paola Gaeta, Professor William Schabas, Colonel (retired) Desmond Travers and Gordon Weiss.
“It is reasonable to conclude that members of the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Reasonable grounds exist to suspect that many of these violations amount to war crimes.” say the expert panel chaired by the former Chief of Investigations at the United Nations (UN) International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Chief Investigator at the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.
The 253 pages report also illustrates violations perpetrated by both parties to the conflict and in particular, widespread torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearance, which continue in part today, perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Security Forces on the civilian population.
“The Sri Lankan Government has not initiated an effective investigation or prosecution of such credible allegations. There are also allegations of collusion and other acts by the Sri Lankan state, which inhibit accountability for wartime crimes and protect perpetrators.” says the ICEP.
The report describes command and control structures so well-established that criminal responsibility for certain crimes if proven at trial could lead to convictions of senior military commanders and Sri Lankan Government officials, as well as senior surviving members of the LTTE.
“More than four years since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, the Sri Lankan Government has failed to address serious and credible alleged violations of international law. The Sri Lankan Government has not complied with the UN Human Rights Council’s March 2012 resolution on reconciliation and accountability. There is strong concern about the independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary and the inadequacy of other checks on executive and military power. Accordingly, there remains serious doubt that the Sri Lankan Government will establish a credible investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of international human rights law and IHL. An independent and comprehensive international investigation is needed into these alleged violations of international law. Failure to do so can only damage the prospects of meaningful and enduring reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The absence of such an investigation will also ensure the ongoing impunity of those on both sides of the conflict who have committed violations of IHL and international human rights law, thereby emboldening those who may continue to abuse the civilian population.” the report concluded.
To read the full report click here