A UN report on the Sri Lanka war is delayed as the Sri Lankan Government warns it has gone too far. A key player in the Sri Lankan reconciliation process tells Channel 4 News the report is “vulgar”.
The Sri Lankan government appears to have successfully delayed the publication of a critical UN report. By securing an agreement that the report’s release would be held back until a Sri Lankan government response could be prepared, the Colombo authorities look to have forced the deferral of its release. It may be published over the Easter weekend, but is likely to receive much less global attention as a result.
The report on atrocities committed at the end of the 26-year Sri Lanka war, which has already been leaked, was compiled by a UN panel advising the Secretary General on accountability, and accuses both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) of “crimes against humanity”.
It focuses in the main on the Government’s responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in the final bloody months of the civil war in 2009, which ended with Government victory.
Ahead of the expected publication, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said the report had overstepped its mandate.
Foreign Minister GL Peiris said: “So how can this panel transform itself into an investigative panel? They must confine themselves to the limit of their mandate.”
He said Sri Lanka had strongly urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon not to formally publish the report, and declined to comment on the detail until it was published. Sri Lanka banned the panel from entering the country during its investigations.
“We are very much conscious of the fact that the need of the hour is reconciliation,” Mr Peiris said. “What needs to be emphasised is oneness and solidarity…we have to consider whether it is useful to have a report of this nature.”
Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, a Sri Lankan MP who was central to the Government’s reconciliation efforts towards the end of the war, told Channel 4 News the report was “vulgar”.
Professor Wijesinha, the former Secretary-General of the Sri Lankan Government Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), and former Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, said: “The bulk of the Sri Lankans will find this report a very vulgar exercise.
The bulk of Sri Lankans will find this report a very vulgar exercise. Professor Rajiva Wijesinha
“I don’t think anyone’s got particularly excited about it at the moment, I think it is important that members of the Security Council have made it very very clear that this is not an official document and I think this whole exercise has been rather regrettable.
“As I told the British, if you want us to hark back to terrorism, we are not playing at all. If you want to encourage us to work with the Tamil population of Sri Lanka, well that’s what we want to do.”
The report will suggest there are “credible allegations” of war crimes which – if proven – suggest a “grave assault on the entire regime of international law”. It will indicate that actions by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
These alleged crimes include executions, rape and torture by Government forces. The leaked report also lists the shelling of civilians inside “no-fire zones”, the “systematic shelling” of hospitals and attacks on the UN and Red Cross.
The LTTE stands accused of refusing civilians permission to leave the conflict zone and “using them as hostages” in a “buffer zone”. The report also took into account a Channel 4 News video, which appeared to show executions and raised new questions over war crimes.
The Sri Lankan Government maintains it should be allowed to look into its own affairs through its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
But many human rights organisations, as well as civilians, who are still searching for their family members or grieving for those they lost in the war, feel that someone must be held to account and international pressure could be the only way.
Dr Manoharan, whose son was killed by security forces in 2006, told Channel 4 News he has been searching for justice for his son, and all the other victims in Sri Lanka, ever since.
“I want a judgement on this and I hope the UN will release their report – I have a right to see that report and so do all the civilians in Sri Lanka,” he said.