UN rights council launches Sri Lanka war crimes probe

March 28, 2014 - 7:10:46 am
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris.

GENEVA, Switzerland: The UN Human Rights Council yesterday launched an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, a move angrily rejected by Colombo as counter-productive.

In a 23-12 vote, the council backed a Western-sponsored resolution saying it was time for a “comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka”.

Colombo has come under pressure over alleged war crimes committed in 2009 when it launched its final offensive to end one of Asia’s deadliest civil wars.

The UN has said up to 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed during the last months of fighting against Tamil Tiger rebels and blamed many of the atrocities on government forces, a charge Colombo vehemently denies.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who has tightened his grip on power since crushing the rebels, said the UN probe would only do harm.

“We reject this,” Rajapakse told AFP in Sri Lanka. “This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help.”

Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha called the rights council’s move a “serious breach of international law”, telling the council it constituted “an infringement of state sovereignty and pre-judgement of the outcome of domestic processes.”

The proposal for a inquiry was put to a vote after failed attempts by Sri Lanka’s supporters Russia, Cuba and Pakistan to use procedural grounds to 

block it.

And China’s delegate called it an “example of the politicisation of human rights”, saying Sri Lanka needed “time and space” to heal the wounds of the past.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the decision.