We are pleased to hear that the United States has decided to press for action at the March session of the Human Rights Council on accountability for wartime abuses in Sri Lanka. This issue has long been a high priority for us due to the massive scale of abuses committed in the final months of the war and the Sri Lankan government’s resistance to any serious domestic inquiry.
In September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the President of the HRC and the High Commissioner the report of his Panel of Experts, which finds considerable evidence of war crimes and other abuses committed by both sides during the Sri Lankan civil war. According to the report, up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final five months of the war, mainly due to indiscriminate shelling of civilian-populated areas, including hospitals and food distribution centers. The rebel group LTTE used civilians as human shields. A documentary by UK's Channel 4, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, released in June 2011, records some of the abuses through graphic video of executions allegedly by the Sri Lankan security forces.
The UN Panel and international organizations have rejected a domestic mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), as inadequate and lacking the independence necessary to conduct an impartial and effective investigation of these abuses. The LLRC report issued in December made some helpful recommendations, but was dismissive of serious abuses by government forces and the need for accountability. 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.
This statement is endorsed by the following:
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
Karin D. Ryan, Director, Human Rights Program, The Carter Center
Don Kraus, Chief Executive Officer, Citizens for Global Solutions
Allison Garland, Project Coordinator, Democracy Coalition Project
John C. Bradshaw, Executive Director, Enough Project
Norma R. Gattsek, Government Relations Director, Feminist Majority Foundation
Paula Schriefer, Vice President for Global Programs, Freedom House
Tom Malinowski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch
E. Robert Goodkind, Chair, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Kathryn Cameron Porter, Founder and President, Leadership Council for Human Rights
Jerry Fowler, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
Hans Hogrefe, Washington Director, Physicians for Human Rights
Bama Athreya, Executive Director, United to End Genocide
Aung Din, Executive Director, U.S. Campaign for Burma