Sri Lanka should ensure government troops who committed war crimes during the final stages of its war against Tamil rebels are brought to justice, the United Nations Human Rights Council said yesterday.
Despite heavy lobbying by a 70-strong team from Colombo, the Geneva-based forum adopted a resolution put forward by the United States urging the Sri Lanka government to implement the recommendations of an official Sri Lankan probe. That commission called for the prosecution of soldiers guilty of misconduct.
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009 in the final months of Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war, a United Nations panel said last year, as government troops advanced on the ever-shrinking northern tip of the island controlled by Tamil forces fighting for an independent homeland.
The panel said it had credible allegations of serious violations committed by both the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a group that was classified as a terrorist organization by more than 30 countries.
Sri Lanka’s government has consistently denied allegations that it targeted civilians, though it has acknowledged that some were killed as troops advanced north.
Twenty four members of the human rights council backed the resolution, but 15 opposed it, including Cuba, Russia and China, who decried it as an attempt to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. A further eight countries abstained.
US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told the council the resolution was “reasonable, constructive, and carefully tailored to the needs of the situation”, but Sri Lanka’s presidential envoy on human rights said it was counterproductive.