By Siva Sivapragasam
The Sri Lankan Government has urged the United Nations to delay it’s report on war atrocities scheduled to be tabled next month.
The request comes from the new Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who has stated that the country needs time to set up mechanisms to deal with any recommendations in the report, due for release on 25 March.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner’s probe is expected to document war crimes by the Tamil Tigers and government forces. The Tamil rebels fought for a separate homeland, but were defeated by the army in a massive military operation in 2009. Both sides in the conflict have been accused of killing civilians. It is estimated that several thousands lost their lives and many more thousands were wounded. Allegations have also been made that unarmed persons who surrendered were also killed. An earlier UN report estimated that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final phase alone. The UN launched its probe last April, saying there had been “an absence of a credible national process with tangible results”.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa refused to grant visas to the UN investigators, and said only Sri Lankans could conduct such an inquiry. The Rajapakse regime was defeated in an election last month, and the new government has promised to co-operate with the UN.
“Unlike the previous government, we are not in a state of denial, saying that such violations have not happened,” Mr. Samaraweera told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“We believe such violations have happened. We are ready to ensure that those who have violated human rights in Sri Lanka will be brought to justice through such a mechanism.”
The foreign minister is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later. He stated that if the report could be delayed until August, it will give time for the Sri Lankan Government for an internal investigation mechanism to be established.
UN officials however maintain that the timetable for the report’s release remains unchanged as of now.