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UN report faults Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers over war conduct

A UN panel has found 'credible allegations' of war crimes committed by both sides as the long-running civil war drew to a close in May 2009.

By Correspondent / April 19, 2011



Bangkok, Thailand

A UN panel has found “credible allegations” of war crimes committed by both sides during the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended nearly two years ago with the battlefield defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

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The panel’s findings contradict many of Sri Lanka’s assertions about the conduct of its troops, who are accused of deliberately shelling civilians caught in the war zone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whose leadership was wiped out at the end of the war in May 2009, is also cited for violations such as child recruitment and using civilians as human shields. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians trapped behind enemy lines may have died during the fighting.

Sri Lanka’s government, which refused to cooperate with the panel, has already criticized its findings as “fundamentally flawed” and based on unverified claims. An executive summary of the report was leaked last week to a Sri Lankan newspaper after the UN sent a copy to the government.

"If proven, those most responsible, including Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior government officials, as well as military and civilian LTTE leaders, would bear criminal liability for international crimes," it said.

UN also comes under fire

The strongly worded report, and Sri Lanka’s preemptive attacks, will put pressure on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who appointed the panel last year. The UN also comes in for sharp criticism in the report for failing to speak out forcefully enough on civilian casualties during the fighting. Mr. Ban’s spokesman said Monday that the full report would be made public this week.

One option for Ban would be to set up a commission of inquiry as a possible first step toward a war-crimes prosecution, either at the International Criminal Court or another judicial body. This may depend on support in the UN Security Council, though analysts say that other mechanisms are at Ban’s disposal.

“We think that the secretary-general has the authority under the UN charter to initiate a fact-finding body that could deepen the panel’s work,” says Alan Kennan, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group based in London.

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