Lanka rejects move for UN inquiry
By Chandani Kirinde
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday said Sri Lanka would not allow a Gaza-style United Nations inquiry on alleged human rights violations or war crimes here as the country had already won an overwhelming vote in its favour from the UN Human Rights Council.
“The UN derives its mandate from governments and the majority of members of the UNHRC objected to any inquiry into alleged human rights violations against the country. This position must be respected,” the minister said.
He accused UN Human Rights Commissioner’s spokesman Rupert Colville of “jumping the gun’ without respecting the decision of the UNHRC.
Mr. Colville had said a UN inquiry in Sri Lanka was still necessary.
"We still believe that something like the Gaza fact-finding mission is certainly warranted," he told reporters on Friday in Geneva.
A 68 page US State Department report presented to Congress on Thursday contains details of alleged “atrocities” by both the military and Tiger guerrillas during the final stages of the war in May this year.
The report prepared by the War Crimes office in the State Department lists 170 incidents between May 2 and 18. It is based mostly on internal reports to Washington from the US Embassy in Colombo, satellite imagery, international relief organizations and media outlets.
The report alleges that thousands of Tamil civilians were gunned down by Tiger guerrillas seeking to use them as human shields or killed in what it calls “indiscriminate government shelling.” Stephen Rapp, the US Ambassador at large for war crimes issues has said that the Government of Sri Lanka should investigate the allegations.
In the first official response to the report, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the report “appears to be unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence.” It accused vested interests of endeavouring to bring the Government of Sri Lanka into disrepute, through “fabricated allegations and concocted stories.”
Official sources said yesterday that a further Government response on the matter is expected after tomorrow. This is after President Mahinda Rajapaksa, due to return from an official visit to Vietnam yesterday, confers with Ministers and officials.
The State Department document said: “The United States recognizes a state’s right to defend itself from armed attacks, including those by non-state actors such as terrorist groups. The United States also expects states and non-state actors to comply with their international legal obligations.
This report compiles alleged incidents that transpired in the final stages of the war, which may constitute violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or crimes against humanity or other violations of international law. Nor does it reach conclusions concerning whether the alleged incidents detailed herein actually occurred.”