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Panel of Experts Finds Credible Reports of War Crimes during Sri Lanka Conflict – UN

by UN News Centre, April 25, 2011

Mr. Ban has decided that he will respond positively to the panel’s recommendation for a review of the UN’s actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka – particularly in the last stages – and its aftermath. The modality of such a review will be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programmes.

“In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum,” the statement added.

The panel of experts set up to advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on accountability issues with respect to the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka has found credible reports of war crimes committed by both the Government and Tamil rebels and calls for genuine investigations into the allegations, according to a report made public today by the United Nations.

A young girl and her mother at a displaced persons camp in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka (Dec 5, 2009)

The decision to release the report, which was submitted to the Secretary-General on 12 April and shared with the Sri Lankan Government, was made as a “matter of transparency and in the broader public interest,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that this advisory report will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lanka Government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace,” the statement added.

Mr. Ban is carefully reviewing the report’s conclusions and recommendations, “including its disturbing assessment that a number of allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka are credible, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Government forces declared victory over the rebel LTTE in May 2009 after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people. The conflict ended with large numbers of Sri Lankans living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in the north of the island country.

The panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government in the final stages of the conflict, including killing of civilians through widespread shelling and the denial of humanitarian assistance.

The credible allegations concerning the LTTE comprise six core categories of potential serious violations, including using civilians as a human buffer and killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control.

The panel’s first recommendation is that the Government of Sri Lanka should respond to the serious allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations.

“The Secretary-General has consistently held the view that Sri Lanka should, first and foremost, assume responsibility for ensuring accountability for the alleged violations,” said the statement, adding that he encourages the Government to respond constructively to the recommendations made by the panel.

Mr. Ban has decided that he will respond positively to the panel’s recommendation for a review of the UN’s actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka – particularly in the last stages – and its aftermath. The modality of such a review will be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programmes.

“In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum,” the statement added.

The three-member panel of experts was set up following the Joint Statement made by Mr. Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the Secretary-General visited the South Asian nation shortly after the end of the conflict.

The members of the panel were Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia (chair), Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States. They began their work in September 2010.

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New York, 25 April 2011 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on public release of Panel of Experts' report on Sri Lanka

The United Nations has today made public the advisory report of the

Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on accountability with respect to the final stages of the decades-long armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which was submitted to him on 12 April 2011. The decision to release the report was made as a matter of transparency and in the broader public interest.

The report was shared in its entirety with the Government of Sri Lanka on

12 April. The Secretary-General has indicated his willingness to publicize the Government's response alongside the report. This invitation was extended to the Sri Lanka Government throughout the week, including again on Saturday by the Secretary-General to the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka. The Government has not responded to this offer which nonetheless still stands.

The Secretary-General expresses his appreciation to the advisory Panel of Experts who have provided their advice on how the undertaking on accountability in the joint communiqué that he had made with the President at the conclusion of Sri Lanka's war can be fulfilled.

The Secretary-General is carefully reviewing the report's conclusions and recommendations with regard to events that took place during the final stages of the conflict, including its assessment that there are a number of allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka, some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Panel's first recommendation is that the Government of Sri Lanka should respond to the serious allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations. The Secretary-General has consistently held the view that Sri Lanka should, first and foremost, assume responsibility for ensuring accountability for the alleged violations. This and a number of other short and medium-term recommendations that the Panel proposed in regard to steps that could be undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka, have now been shared with the Government. He encourages the Sri Lankan authorities to respond constructively.

The Secretary-General has decided that he will respond positively to the Panel's recommendation for a review of the United Nations' actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka – particularly in the last stages. The exact modality of such a review will be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programmes.

In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum. The monitoring and repository functions it was suggested this mechanism undertake will continue to be performed by the United Nations Secretariat.

The Secretary-General trusts that the Government of Sri Lanka will continue to respect the work of the UN and its agencies as well as its obligations to the safety of UN staff in Colombo. He regrets the inflammatory tone of some of the recent public statements emanating from Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that this advisory report will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lankan Government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace.