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UN wants Gaza-style human rights inquiry

The UN wants an inquiry similar to the one that looked into fighting in Gaza to determine if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the final months of its 26-year war between government troops and the LTTE, which ended in May this year. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Oct 25, 2009 00:57 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The United Nations wants an inquiry similar to the one that looked into fighting in Gaza to determine if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the final months of its 26-year war between government troops and the LTTE, which ended in May this year.

"There hasn't been a full inquiry into what did or did not happen in the last months of the war," Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, was quoted by Reuters as having said in Geneva.

Colville said that an inquiry into the conduct of Lankan troops and Tamil Tigers could be conducted along the lines of the Gaza investigation commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council and led by jurist Richard Goldstone.

The comments assume significance as it comes after the US State Department detailed atrocities toward the end of Sri Lanka's civil war. That report recounted allegations of military shelling of civilians and killing of captives, as well as charges that Tamil rebels recruited children to fight in the war.

Sri Lanka immediately rejected the report, as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence" and said LTTE supporters had a history of fabricating stories to damage the government's reputation.

Colville, speaking to a U.N. press briefing in Geneva, said that while the State Department findings were not exhaustive, it was important to credibly lay out what civilians endured as Sri Lanka's conflict neared its end.

"We still believe that something like the Gaza fact-finding mission is certainly warranted," he said.

Meanwhile, Neil Buhne, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sri Lanka, says the response from donors to humanitarian needs had been good, but there was frustration over the closed nature of the camps, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) website reported.

“Among the donors we talked to, there is a hesitation in terms of their assistance to camps over the next three or four months if there’s not significant progress on people returning, or larger numbers of people being allowed to leave,” Buhne told IRIN.

“Donor fatigue is really in respect to continuing these closed camps… Donors have not said no, but they have indicated their concerns to us,” he said.