Statement to 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council supporting resolution 25/1 regarding investigations of war crimes in Sri Lanka

Statement at the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

26 March 2014

Item 2: General Debate

Statement by the Human Rights Law Centre, Australia

Mr President,

The Human Rights Law Centre in association with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) welcomes the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on Sri Lanka.

We draw the Council’s attention to Island of Impunity, a report released in February 2014 by PIAC. PIAC, an Australian-based non-government organisation, published this report based on a detailed and impartial investigation and a rigorous legal analysis of alleged international crimes committed during the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Consistent with other reports familiar to the Council, including the 2011 UN Panel of Experts report, PIAC’s investigation found reasonable grounds to suspect that acts, which could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, took place. These allegations include that:

  • the Sri Lankan Security Forces intentionally or recklessly attacked civilians in the No Fire Zones;
  • members of the Security Forces engaged in extrajudicial judicial killings of senior LTTE leaders and people associated with the LTTE;
  • members of the Sri Lankan Government denied essential humanitarian assistance to civilians;
  • LTTE members prevented, and in some cases shot, civilians fleeing the conflict zone;
  • the LTTE recruited child soldiers; and
  • rape, sexual violence, torture and enforced disappearances were committed by members of the Security Forces.

PIAC’s investigation also collected evidence of post-conflict violations. Particularly relevant is recent witness testimony alleging that members of the Security Forces destroyed key forensic evidence after the conflict ended.  This includes exhuming bodies from mass burial sites, and their subsequent destruction.

We call on the Council to pass resolution 25/1. The reports of the High Commissioner, PIAC and respected international NGOs make clear that the preconditions are not currently met for domestic accountability mechanisms to operate effectively. An international investigation is needed to promote accountability for serious and credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to achieve peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.