UN To Form Sri Lanka War Crimes Panel

Colombo – Sri Lanka on Wednesday criticized the appointment of a panel by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate allegations of human rights violations during the last months of the government’s war against separatist Tamil rebels.

‘Sri Lanka regards the appointment of the Sri Lanka panel of experts as an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation,’ the External Affairs Ministry said.

Sri Lanka has been facing increasing international pressure to investigate alleged rights abuses committed by both sides before Sri Lanka’s military killed the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, thereby ending a 26-year civil war on the island.

Rights groups and other observers have accused both the LTTE and government of war crimes during the conflict.

The UN panel is being chaired by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman and also consists of Yasmin Sooka, a human rights expert from South Africa, and Steven Ratner, a US lawyer, the UN office in Colombo said.

Sri Lanka last month appointed its own commission to investigate events during the last eight years of the conflict with the LTTE.

‘Sri Lanka is a sovereign state with a robustly independent judiciary and a tried and tested system for the administration of justice,’ the External Affairs Ministry asserted in its statement.

UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe visited Sri Lanka last week, where he met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and visited former combat zones.

He told reporters that the panel would advise the UN chief on how to look into accountably issues of events that took place during the final stages of the military operations.

The United Nations estimated that 7,500 civilians were killed in the last months of the civil war, a claim denied by the Sri Lankan government.