The United Nations has called for a special court to try war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan army’s long conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels,BBC reports.
In a long-delayed report, the UN Human Rights Council accused both sides of atrocities, especially during the final stages of the war in 2009. The new court would have foreign judges and investigators, the report said. Sri Lanka has resisted such moves.
One UN estimate is that 40,000 Tamils died in the final army offensive. Earlier this week Sri Lanka’s new government unveiled plans to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to examine war crimes allegations, including those against the military.
The previous government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa had resisted international pressure to investigate the issue.
Unveiling the report in Geneva, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said only a special court with international magistrates and investigators would be up to the huge task of examining the allegations.
“Our investigation has laid bare the horrific level of violations and abuses that occurred in Sri Lanka, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, recruitment of children and other grave crimes,” he said.
He also called on the Sri Lankan government to remove from office anyone if there were credible grounds to believe they had committed human rights abuses.
While government forces were accused of indiscriminate shelling leading to massive casualties, the Tamil Tiger rebels were alleged to have used civilians as human shields.
As well as the thousands of Tamils who died in the final battles on a strip of land in the north-east, many others are still missing. Despite promises to pursue accountability, Sri Lanka’s new government, elected last month, would be reluctant to hold war crimes trials, correspondents say.
The UN Human Rights Council postponed the planned publication of its report in March, after Mr Rajapaksa lost the presidential election to party rival Maithripala Sirisena in January.
Mr Sirisena, who was a serving government minister during the final stages of the war, promised to co-operate with the UN and to promote reconciliation on the island.
The Rajapaksa government held its own commission into what happened in the last years of the civil war but critics said it lacked credibility. The 26-year war left at least 100,000 people dead. There are still no confirmed figures for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in the last months of battle.
An earlier UN investigation said it was possible up to 40,000 people had been killed in the final five months alone. Others suggest the number of deaths could be even higher.