Last June a panel of experts was appointed to advise the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) on ‘accountability issues’ in Sri Lanka. A few days ago they presented Ban Ki Moon with a report of their findings, which found that there were credible allegations of both sides committing war crimes and of the Government of Sri Lanka’s culpability in summary executions, disappearances, and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. You can read the report here. Not surprisingly this immediately provoked the Sri Lankan government to dismiss the report as ‘fundamentally flawed’. Along with the reports from the prominent human rights organizations, this much delayed UN report must be a precursor to an international investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both sides during the final stages of the war as the report itself recommends.
As a result of the lobbying by Sri Lanka Campaign supporters and many others, we welcome the UNSG’s office making the panel’s report publicly available but we are dismayed that the UNSG claims he lacks the authority to order an inquiry into the mass killings without the consent of the Sri Lankan government, or a decision by an appropriate international forum of member states. Human Rights Watch has already disagreed, rightly. Having fought to establish the panel, the UN secretary general has a responsibility to finish what he started and implement the recommendations of his own report.
The report concludes that the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity are credible and should be subject to a full international investigation – this in light of the fact that Sri Lanka’s own investigation has been widely criticized for its lack of integrity.
“The Sri Lanka Campaign had been asking for the public release of this expert report and we are relieved, not least for the sake of those who have suffered unimaginable grief that it has been released. We are concerned that there is no suggested timetable for follow up action, since prompt action to define the truth of what happened will benefit Sri Lankans and also have a wider benefit for the cause of human rights and justice throughout the world”, said Edward Mortimer, Chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign. He warned that “any further delay will serve to encourage other authoritarian regimes, who are watching and learning from the ‘Sri Lanka model’. Whilst the Sri Lanka Campaign welcomes the report , we urgently appeal to the UNSG and all the members of the Security Council to use their influence to implement the UN Panels recommendations.”