UN report reveals war crimes committed in Lanka

warThe much awaited report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which investigated incidents related to the war in Sri Lanka has found that war crimes did take place in Sri Lanka.

The report released today by the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) team has identified patterns of grave violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, strongly indicating that war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the conflict.

Among the most serious crimes documented in the report are unlawful killings, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, recruitment of children and their use in hostilities, as well as abduction and forced recruitment of adults, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, denial of humanitarian assistance and violations during the detention of internally displaced people (IDPs) in closed camps.

The report documents years of denials and cover-ups, failure to carry out prompt investigations, stalled investigations and reprisals against the family members of victims and others who have pushed for justice.

It notes that the repeated failure of successive domestic inquiries to bring justice has led to scepticism, anger and mistrust on the part of victims, particularly since “many of the structures responsible for the violations and crimes remain in place.” The report demonstrates the systemic weakness in addressing these crimes, especially when the military or security forces are involved. It also describes “reprisals against judicial and other professionals who try to prosecute human-rights related cases involving State officials.”

“The commitment by the new Government to pursue accountability through a domestic process is commendable…but the unfortunate reality is that Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system is not yet ready,” the report states. “First and foremost is the absence of any reliable system for victim and witness protection. Second is the inadequacy of Sri Lanka’s domestic legal framework to deal with international crimes of this magnitude. The third challenge is the degree to which Sri Lanka’s security sector and justice system have been distorted and corrupted by decades of emergency, conflict and impunity.”

The report documents years of denials and cover-ups, failure to carry out prompt investigations, stalled investigations and reprisals against the family members of victims and others who have pushed for justice.

It notes that the repeated failure of successive domestic inquiries to bring justice has led to scepticism, anger and mistrust on the part of victims, particularly since “many of the structures responsible for the violations and crimes remain in place.” The report demonstrates the systemic weakness in addressing these crimes, especially when the military or security forces are involved. It also describes “reprisals against judicial and other professionals who try to prosecute human-rights related cases involving State officials.” (Colombo Gazette)

* The report is divided into two parts which are interlinked:

1)        The overarching Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights (A/HRC/30/61) which can be found here:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Documents/A_HRC_30_61_ENG.docx
2)        The accompanying report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (A/HRC/30/CRP.2) which can be found here:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Documents/A_HRC_30_CRP_2.docx

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