Sri Lanka faces renewed condemnation at the United Nations’ top human rights body, as a resolution for an international criminal investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by government soldiers is being debated in Geneva.
The debate has been denounced by Sri Lankan officials as “unwarranted interference” in the country’s internal affairs.
On Wednesday, UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay presented a report on the issue to the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) before the debate started on a US-led resolution demanding accountability for the deaths of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians in the final stages of the country’s 26-year civil war.
“Almost five years since the end of the conflict, it is important for the Human Rights Council to recall the magnitude and gravity of the violations alleged to have been committed at that time by the Government and the LTTE” said Pillay to the council on Wednesday.
She said that even though the government established various mechanisms with the task to investigate past violations, “none have had the independence to be effective or inspire confidence among victims and witnesses.”
Government troops crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed separatist organisation known as the Tamil Tigers, in May 2009. The UN says the war may have claimed as many as 40,000 civilian lives in its final months.
Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council, a non-government organisation, told Al Jazeera that he doubted the Sri Lankan government would permit an international inquiry or personnel to enter the country as it feared a biased outcome. He said the government would regard such moves as an infringement of the country’s sovereignty.
“The government has been able to convince the majority population, the Sinhalese people, that a biased report will be the outcome of an international investigation. On the other hand, the Tamil people feel that a government investigation will itself be biased and will suppress the facts,” Perera said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already denounced an international probe as foreign interference and said Western nations were unfairly targeting him.
Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the UN, rejected Pillay’s call for the international inquiry on Wednesday saying that they were part of a “preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda” which “reflected bias”.
A group of protesters gathered in Colombo on Tuesday to demonstrate against the resolution, calling the allegations baseless.