Sri Lanka Rejects U.N. Probe Into War Crimes

“Sri Lanka is again in the international spotlight with the completion of a long-awaited U.N. report on accountability issues relating to the last days of the island’s two-decade-long civil war. Excerpts of the report -- strongly critical of both the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels for their conduct of the war as well as alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by both parties, and calling for an independent international investigation into such crimes -- have been leaked in the Sri Lankan press,” says Asia Society Associate Fellow Ahilan Kadirgamar.

“The government of Sri Lanka has rejected the report and called on the U.N. not to release it to the public – though media reports claim it will be made public by the U.N. shortly. The Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris has claimed that making the report public would undermine reconciliation in the country. Such a statement is duplicitous. It is the government that has whipped up nationalist sentiment over the last few years, giving center stage to Sinhala nationalist allies in the government while doing little to move on post-war reconciliation.

“The U.N. report as well as the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report due on May 15 should be made public. A constructive discussion on ways forward is urgently needed. Only a domestic process can ultimately make real headway on political reconciliation. But given that little progress has been made two years after the war, international engagement -- particularly in U.N. forums – is likely to build. In the past, the Sri Lankan government has reacted to such challenges on accountability and human rights in a confrontational manner. Only a few analysts inside Sri Lanka are calling for an approach on the part of the government that could integrate the U.N. concerns into a domestic process.  Chances of that happening seem slim, with the political will of powerful actors either challenging or supporting Sri Lanka playing out in the U.N. forums.”

Ahilan is in New York. To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or