UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is meeting his Sri Lankan counterpart, GL Peiris today (19 October) amidst calls for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Amnesty International yesterday urged Hague to demand such an investigation in his meeting with Peiris.
In the months since last year’s armed conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - commonly known as the Tamil Tigers - numerous allegations of war crimes have surfaced. Amnesty says that none have so far been properly investigated.
Eyewitness accounts of the last months of war paint a grim picture of deprivation of food, water and medical care; fear, injury and loss of life experienced by civilians trapped in the fighting.
“It is time for a full and independent spotlight to be shone onto the horrors of what happened during the conflict,” insisted Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, “William Hague needs to stress that when he meets the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister”.
She continued, “At present those alleged to be responsible remain at large and at little threat of being brought to justice – that cannot be allowed to continue.”
Although two bodies – the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s Panel of Experts – have been set up to look into the claims, Amnesty International has huge reservations about the effectiveness of both.
“Given the Sri Lankan Government’s track record on dealing with human rights abuses, their decision in May to establish the LLRC was suspect at best,” explained Allen, “Historically, Sri Lanka’s internal enquiries into human rights abuses have not been adequately empowered or resourced to ensure real accountability and there is no reason to believe that this commission will be any more effective than its predecessors."
She described Ban Ki Moon's Panel of Experts as “an important first step” but added that “it falls short of what is actually needed”.
“Hundreds of children were among the civilians killed and maimed during the final stages of the conflict in 2009,” said Allen, “In order that victims’ families get the justice they deserve Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation to document the full extent of crimes allegedly committed during the conflict.”
In addition, Amnesty International continues to have concerns for the well being of tens of thousands of displaced people who remain in makeshift camps, and the more than 7,000 Tamil Tiger suspects, who are being held incommunicado in what the state refers to as “rehabilitation camps”.