TAPI Pleased UN Panel Report was Published and that it Recommends Both Sides of the Sri Lankan Civil War be Investigated and Held Accountable

Published On Wednesday, April 27, 2011
On Monday, April 25th, a UN panel of experts issued a long-awaited report to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Sri Lankan government (SLG) detailing the panel’s findings and recommendations surrounding violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Based on credible reports, the panel puts the civilian death toll in the final months of fighting between 40,000 and 75,000. It is widely known that all the civilians in the conflict area were ethnic Tamils, and the staggering number of Tamil civilian casualties far exceeds the number killed in the Srebrenica massacre, according to the observation of Gordon Weiss, then UN spokesperson in Colombo during the conflict. The UN panel is comprised of three independent and highly respected international human rights attorneys, Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States.

The Tamil American Peace Initiative (TAPI) is pleased the full report by the panel was made public Monday, and that it recommended both sides – the Sri Lankan Government and the Libertarian Tiger Tamils of Eelam – be properly investigated and held accountable.

“These were innocent, human lives that were lost – men, women and children,” said TAPI spokesman Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham. “Given the severity of these credible allegations, establishing an independent, international investigation is the only way legitimate grievances can be voiced without fear of retribution, and perpetrators can be brought to justice so all Sri Lankans can move forward. The families of the victims have a right to know what happened and that the appropriate parties will be held accountable.”

Among the many notable findings are:

• The SLG “shelled on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate…Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling;"

• The SLG “systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines, [and] deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid;”

• “Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army;”

• The SLG “denies the human cost of its military strategy, claiming that it mounted a ‘humanitarian rescue operation’ guided by a principle of ‘zero casualties’ in the Vanni. Further, since the war ended, the Government has claimed that those who have a different analysis and who allege serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are misguided and prejudiced by the influence of LTTE sympathizers;” and

• The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), appointed by SLG to investigate the war is “seriously deficient with regard to its composition when held against international standards to ensure independence and impartiality of accountability mechanisms. Its composition calls into question its independence and impartiality, especially regarding conduct that could implicate the Government and security forces in the final phases of the war, and weakens its legitimacy as a body to advance accountability.”

Given the credible evidence running contrary to the SLG’s claims, the panel recommended the Secretary General immediately establish an independent international mechanism, with the mandate to:

• Monitor and assess the extent to which the SLG is carrying out an effective domestic accountability process, including genuine investigations of the alleged violations. The panel does not believe the current LLRC has the authority to pursue accountability;

• Conduct investigations independently into the alleged violations; and

• Collect and safeguard information provided, which is relevant to accountability for the final stages of the war, including the information gathered by the Panel and other bodies in the United Nations system.

“We have seen independent, international investigations take place in South Africa and Northern Ireland with much success, and a similar investigation would absolutely be essential for ensuring lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” said Dr. Arulanantham. “The US must not turn a blind eye towards war crimes and crimes against humanity, so it should use its influence on the Security Council to set up the neutral, thorough and authoritative body suggested by the panel. If SLG has nothing to hide, why have they been so vehemently fighting the notion of an independent investigative body?”
About TAPI
The Tamil American Peace Initiative was formed by a group of Tamil Americans to help bring lasting peace, justice, democracy, good governance and economic development to Sri Lanka; to focus attention on the destruction of Tamil communities and culture caused by almost three decades of war; and to demand an end to the continuing oppression of Tamils on the island.

Contact T. Kopper at or +1.202.879.9384 for additional information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham.
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