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UN proposes Goldstone-type mission to investigate Sri Lanka war crimes

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 October 2009 09:48 No Comment]

Following the release of U.S. State Department’s report that detailed alleged war-crimes committed by Sri Lanka’s protagonists towards the end of war, conducted under Colombo imposed blackout, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said Friday that an inquiry similar to one that looked into fighting in Gaza may be needed to determine if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the final weeks of the war. Brad Adams of HRW had earlier said "[g]iven Sri Lanka’s complete failure to investigate possible war crimes, the only hope for justice is an independent, international investigation." Sri Lanka rejected the report as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence."

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, Reuters reported.

The 575-page Gaza report produced by a four member team led by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African judge and once the lead war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, after a week long fact finding mission in Gaza, "condemned rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians, and reserved its harshest language for Israel’s treatment of the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, both during the war and through the longer-term blockade of the territory, a New York Times (NYT) report said.

The team focused on 36 representative cases, and in 11 of these episodes, the report said the "Israeli military carried out direct attacks against civilians, including some in which civilians were shot “while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags.”

The alleged crimes charged against Sri Lanka in the US report are similar to those in the Gaza report. In a chapter on "killing of combatants seeking surrender," the US report said the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers machine gunned 12 members of the LTTE political section when they came out waving a white flag after Colombo gave the 12 members assurance of safety.

Rupert Colville says his office is also concerned for the 250,000 internally displaced people still living in appalling conditions five months after the war. However, the Sri Lanka Government says it is taking steps to properly deal with the issue, the UN Radio said in its broadcast Friday.

"They did in fact release I think a few thousand people yesterday from one of these camps, but there is still a very large number of people in these camps," Colville added.

[Full Coverage]

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