Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sri Lanka needs international probe: UN rights chief

The United Nations human rights chief called on Sri Lanka to allow an international probe into the government's final offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, acknowledged that the Sri Lanka government had created a post-war reconciliation commission to look into alleged human rights violations, and provide justice to victims.

"However, based on previous experience and new information, I remain convinced that such objectives would be better served by establishing an independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere," she told the UN Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse last Thursday reiterated that he would not tolerate any outside review of the military offensive.

Sri Lankan Attorney-General Mohan Peiris told the council on Monday that Pillay was prejudging the outcome of the domestic commission's work and warned that an international probe would undermine the country's sovereignty.

"We are of the view that the High Commissioner's observations on the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation, which has just been established, regrettably seeks to prejudge its outcome even before the mechanism has begun its work," he said.

Peiris defended the domestic probe, saying that it was not unusual for countries emerging from armed conflicts to turn first to internal probes, partly because they were closer to the main issues.

"It is in this context that the government of Sri Lanka has consistently upheld and established a domestic mechanism for transitional justice," he said.

The state-run Daily News newspaper reported on May 5 on Colombo's plans to set up a reconciliation commission to foster ethnic unity as the island recovers from nearly four decades of conflict, but gave few details.

According to a document circulated by the Sri Lanka delegation at the Human Rights Council on Monday, the commission was set up on May 15, with eight people "selected for their eminence and independence."

They are required to examine the circumstances around the failure of a 2002 ceasefire agreement as well as lessons learnt from the conflict and how victims can be helped.

The commission should report back within six months.

Pillay assessed that some progress has been made since the end of the conflict in the return and resettlement of displaced people.

"Concrete initiatives must now follow to provide justice and redress to victims and generally to promote accountability and longer-term reconciliation," she added.

Government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year after killing the guerilla leaders who were fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland.

The UN estimates that up to 100,000 people died in Sri Lanka's Tamil separatist conflict after the Tiger rebels first emerged in 1972.

The Sinhalese are the majority in Sri Lanka, with the Tamils representing the minority.


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Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Photo courtesy of Tamilnet.com

Five bodies recovered from a toilet pit in Ganeshapuram, Kilinochchi has been sent to Vavunia for further identification.

Tamil National Alliance, Jaffna District Member of Parliament S.Sridharan said that the gender of the five bodies were unidentifiable due to their state of decomposition.

The post-mortem was carried out by the Judicial Medical Officer Balachandran Sridharan of Vavunia.

“Two bodies were covered in white bags and other three were in black polythene bags”, said the parliamentarian.

According to MP Sridharan, two bodies were clad in uniforms similliar to those of the Sri Lankan military, while two bodies were with uniforms similar to LTTE cadres. One was wrapped in a sari.

The bodies found by a dairy farmer, who were taken to resettle in Ganeshapuram.

Parliamentarian Sridharan said that army soldiers and police were present when the bodies were removed from the pit.

Kilinochchi District Judge S. Sivakumar visited Ganeshapuram to inspect the bodies yesterday.

Kilinochchi was the administrative centre of the Tamil tigers who were defeated by the Sri Lankan military a year ago.

Human rights organisations as well as the United Nations have accused of human rights violations during the final stages of the war between the two parties.

© BBC Sinhala

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Huge civilian toll in Lanka war: Indian doctor

Sutirtho Patranobis - One year after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, one of the Indian doctors who treated Tamil refugees during the last months of the conflict says there were "massive casualties" among the civilian population.

The Sri Lankan government has denied any targeted killing of civilians and contested figures by the United Nations that 7,000 civilians died in the final phase of the conflict.

"We were not prepared (for what we saw) when we reached the camp… the extent of injuries… long lines of people," the doctor told HT over phone from India, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We were overwhelmed by what we saw. It was clear the people (the internally displaced) had been battered." This is probably the only eyewitness account from the battle zone.

"We were treating hundreds of patients every day. Shell injuries, bullet injuries. More than 80 per cent of these patients said either someone in their family or in a family they knew was killed or injured. Nearly 80 to 90 of the 120-odd patients had a story of death or injury to recollect," the doctor said.

"Someone lost her husband, someone's parents died and someone's neighbour had bullet injuries. Families from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts were the worse-hit."

The war ended on May 18, 2009. Between June 1 and August 31, the team of doctors, nurses and paramedics — of which the doctor was a part — treated more than 40,000 Tamils in a camp in the northern district of Vavuniya.

This would mean, based on the doctor's 80 per cent figure, casualties — deaths and wounded — in the region of 30,000.

The patients who were treated at the Indian camp were among the 300,000 displaced civilians who fled the so-called ‘no fire zone' declared on a sliver of land on the northeast coast of Mullaitivu where they were trapped from February 2009.

But the ‘no fire zone' was, in fact, a battlefield and saw pitched battles between the government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam rebels.

About 10,000 children were treated by the Indian team for disease, infection and injuries. "We treated children with bullet and shell injuries. Even infants had bullet injuries. If children cannot be protected, the situation of adults could only be worse. More than 80 per cent of the children were malnourished."

Every morning, the doctors conducted an "injection parade" for adults and children with infections. "Lots of infections were contracted in the camps."

Why did he decide to speak now?

"I thought even after a year, not many were aware of what happened... the carnage… things were being brushed under the carpet."

© Hindustan Times

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