UN rights body grants Sri Lanka two more years to set up war crimes probe

In this April 6, 2015, file photo, Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil women sit holding placards with portraits of their missing relatives as they protest out side a railway station in Colombo.   | Photo Credit: AP

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday approved giving Sri Lanka two more years to set up a credible war crimes investigation into the island nation's brutal civil war.

The UN's top rights body approved without a vote a resolution to postpone discussing the implementation of an official probe into crimes committed during the 37-year guerilla war, which ended in May 2009.

Sri Lankan government troops were accused of killing at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the final months of the war.

A 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution gave Sri Lanka 18 months to establish a credible investigation. Colombo secured a two-year extension in 2017 that expires this month.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned earlier this week that Sri Lanka could slip back into conflict unless it addressed the "worst crimes" during the final stages of its ethnic war.

'Try war criminals'

She told the Human Rights Council that Sri Lanka was yet to set up the special judicial mechanism as promised four years ago to try war criminals.

"Continuing impunity risks fuelling communal or interethnic violence, and instability," she said. "Resolving these cases, and bringing the perpetrators of past crimes to justice, is necessary to restore the confidence of victims from all communities."

She noted a "lack of progress in setting up a special judicial mechanism to deal with the worst crimes committed during the 2009 conflict".

Speaking to the council Thursday, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana hailed the resolution, describing it as "a mark of recognition of Sri Lanka's political commitment and progressive steps already taken by the government since 2015."

British Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, whose country was one of the main sponsors of Thursday's resolution, agreed the text recognised "some very real achievements against (its) commitments in the past two years."

But, he added, "it also recognises that in a number of important areas, implementation remains a work in progress."

He hailed Sri Lanka's affirmation that it remains determined to deliver on its commitments, and said the co-sponsors of the resolution, which also included Canada, Germany, North Macedonia and Montenegro, stood ready to provide support in the process.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 3:27:34 PM |

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