Sri Lanka: UN appoints war crimes panel

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on June 22 the formation of a three-member panel to advise him on whether Sri Lanka committed crimes during the last months of its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Reuters said that day.

Reuters said the Sri Lankan government urged Ban not to appoint the advisory panel, arguing it had already set out its own commission to investigate human rights violations in the war. However, Peggy Hicks of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the UN panel was necessary since “the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to seriously investigate war-time human rights abuses”.

The panel will be chaired by Indonesia’s former attorney-general Marzuki Darusman. The other two panel members are South African human rights expert Yasmin Sooka, and Steven Ratner, a US lawyer who advised the UN on bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice in Cambodia, Reuters said.

In a June 23 statement, the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) urged all sides of Australian politics to support an independent investigation into Sri Lanka’s war crimes.

ATC spokesperson Dr Sam Pari said: “We welcome the UN’s announcement of an advisory panel and we hope the UN will soon take the next step towards actually investigating these alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

“We hope all sides of Australian politics see the importance of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”

The ATC statement said: “Last month, independent reports by the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch cited photographs and eyewitness testimonies strengthening claims of war crimes and reiterated their calls for an independent investigation into Sri Lanka.”