UN proposes international court to investigate Sri Lanka war

UN calls for special court to investigate war crimes during 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Missing and dead people's parents holding photos during a protest in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, in 2013

Updated Sep 17, 2015

The United Nations on Wednesday called for the setting up of a composite international court to investigate brutal crimes commited during Sri Lankan army's long conflict with the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

According to UN reports, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights. said that both sides committed war crimes including torture, executions, sexual abuse, suicide attacks and assassinations.

“We have not cited names because we were looking at broader patterns of organisation and planning which breach the threshold of ... war crimes and crimes against humanity ... It was apparent that organisation and planning [took place] in the commission of many of these crimes,” Hussein told reporters.

Sri Lankan officials and leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had previously been accused of engaging in violent crimes.

To form a special mixed court to examine war crimes involving Sri Lankan and international jurists, prosecutors and investigators would be fundamental to a successful reconciliation commission said the UN.

“We have to end this impunity which exists. I hope that Sri Lanka to chart out a new path for itself and set an example for other countries,” Hussein said. He also added that the composition of the new court would be the subject of discussions with the Sri Lankan government.

The report mainly focuses on the clash beginning from the end of 2008 and the first five months of 2009. It is believed that thousands died in random bombing by government forces around the town of Mullaitivu, on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast.

The report also says, “There are reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary groups associated with them were implicated in unlawful killings carried out in a widespread manner against civilians and other protected persons [including] Tamil politicians, humanitarian workers and journalists were particularly targeted during certain periods, but [also] ordinary civilians.”

The report also condemns the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for “a pattern of abductions leading to forced recruitment of adults” and for preventing civilians escaping the battle area to government-controlled areas.

Moreover, a striking point of the report is that sexual abuse was committed against both men and women captives by Sri Lankan security forces during and after battles. Torture by security forces was planned and carried out following the clashes.

The Sri Lankan civil conflict began in 1983 with the insurgency of the Tamil Tigers against government forces with the aim of creating an independent Tamil state in the north of the Island. The 27-year-long conflict came to an end in 2009 with the victory of the Sri Lankan military.

TRTWorld and agencies