In a recent statement to the United Nations, the Enough Project in conjunction with a coalition of other NGOs is urging the U.N. Human Rights Council to examine the severe atrocities committed by Sri Lankan security forces and rebels during the final months of the country’s 26-year civil war. The statement backs an initiative by United States to press the council to address impunity in Sri Lanka during the HRC’s upcoming session in March.
"Now is the time for the HRC to demonstrate its commitment to justice for victims and their families by taking effective action toward establishing an independent international accountability mechanism," the groups wrote.
From July 1983 through May 2009, Sri Lanka played host to a brutal civil war waged between the rebel group known as the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, and the Sri Lankan security forces. The human cost of the war was great, resulting in 80,000-100,000 casualties—the majority of which were civilian. As indicated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Experts’ report on the conflict, an estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the final five months of the war alone. Civilian regions were indiscriminately bombed by security forces, while rebels captured people and used them as human shields. It is this reckless disregard for human life and the legal protections for civilians in armed conflict which has prompted the international community to demand action on the part of the HRC to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
As the statement by the NGOs noted, the U.N. Panel and other concerned parties have rejected the ability of the Sri Lankan “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” to adequately address the alleged abuses in an unbiased manner. Therefore, the HRC must take the initiative to establish an independent accountability mechanism to compensate for the lack of a viable domestic option in Sri Lanka, the joint statement noted.
While the Enough Project continues to focus most of its efforts on conflicts in eastern Africa, we highly value and strongly support the efforts of our colleagues who are investing their time in combating mass atrocities and crimes against humanity across all parts of the globe. Enough’s involvement in this effort to call upon the UNHRC to take action highlights the need for accountability and reparations not only in Sri Lanka, but in all areas where these types of abuses are occurring.
Photo: Displaced Sri Lankan Tamil civilians look out past the fence of a camp (AFP)