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Government plans truth commission to address past violations

Graphic: Meeting of the UN Human Rights Council

A new report released by the United Nations has identified grave violations of human rights in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights LogoOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

A new report released by the United Nations human rights office has identified patterns of grave violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, and recommends the establishment of a hybrid special court to ensure that justice is served.

"Our investigation has laid bare the horrific level of violations and abuses that occurred in Sri Lanka, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, recruitment of children and other grave crimes," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a news release.

"This report is being presented in a new political context in Sri Lanka, which offers grounds for hope," he continued.

"It is crucial that this historic opportunity for truly fundamental change is not allowed to slip."

Sri Lanka's new government said it plans to set up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to look into atrocities during its civil war.

Before the release of OHCHR's report, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the UN Human Rights Council that the Sri Lankan government would establish an independent "Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence".

He also announced proposals to set up a criminal justice mechanism and to compensate victims.

The United Nations report indicates that war crimes and crimes against humanity were most likely committed by both sides to the country's conflict.

Among the most serious crimes documented in the report are numerous unlawful killings, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, torture, child recruitment, attacks on civilians, denial of humanitarian assistance, and violation of the rights of internally displaced persons in closed camps.

The report also documents "years of denials and cover-ups, failure to carry out prompt investigations, stalled investigations and reprisals against the family members of victims and others who have pushed for justice," the OHCHR news release said.

Date: 17 September 2015

Image credits

  1. Meeting of the UN Human Rights Council - UN Geneva, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1KCRFGf