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UN panel finds credible 'war crimes' charges in Sri Lanka

Tuesday April 26, 2011 08:29:07 PM, IANS

New Delhi: A UN report has found credible evidence that both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers violated human rights in the last stages of the conflict, some of it amounting to war crimes.

But the report, which became public this week, is more harsh on Colombo, saying most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war in 2008-09 "were caused by government shelling".

"Between September 2008 and May 19, 2009, the Sri Lanka Army advanced its military campaign on the Vanni using largescale and widespread shelling, causing large numbers of civilian deaths," said the report of the UN Secretary General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka.

Although the report was submitted to UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon March 31, it has come into public domain only now.

The panel was set up following widespread allegations that the Sri Lankan military carried out war crimes as it crushed the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, ending one of the world's longest running insurgencies.

"The panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed both by the government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The government, it said, shelled No Fire Zones where it had asked civilians to take shelter and even food distribution lines.

"The government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines. All hospitals in the (war zone) were hit by mortars and artillery, some of them were hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well known to the government.

"The government also systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical supplies, particularly surgical supplies, adding to their suffering.

"Tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days.

"The government subjected victims and survivors of the conflict to further deprivation and suffering after they left the conflict zone.

"Screening for suspected LTTE (cadres) took place without any transparency or external scrutiny. Some of those who were separated (from civilians) were summarily executed and some of the women may have been raped...

"Massive overcrowding (in camps) led to terrible conditions, breaching the basic social and economic rights of the detainees, and many lives were lost unnecessarily.

"Some persons in the camps were interrogated and subjected to torture."

The report also hit out at the LTTE, accusing it of forcible recruitment "throughout the war". It said it intensified its recruitment of people of all ages, including children as young as 14.

"All of this was done in a quest to pursue a war that was clearly lost; many civilians were sacrificed on the altar of the LTTE cause and its efforts to preserve its senior leadership."

The end of the war led to the decimation of the LTTE and its top brass, including founder leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The report demanded a serious probe into the credibly alleged violations of human rights and the prosecution of those responsible.

"If proven, those most responsible, including Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior government officials, as well as military and civilian LTTE leaders, would bear criminal liability for international crimes."




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