Sri Lanka notifies UN its withdrawl from war crimes resolution

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Geneva/Colombo, February 26: Sri Lanka on Wednesday notified the UN about its withdrawal from a UNHRC resolution that called for accountability to human rights abuses committed during the nation’s civil war with the Tamil separatists and pledged to appoint a new committee to review the reports of the previous probes which investigated alleged war crimes.
Sri Lanka co-sponsored the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 2015 resolution along with 11 other countries, including the US and Britain, calling for an investigation into alleged human rights violations during the island nation’s civil war, which ended in 2009 with the killing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran by the Lankan army.
The resolution 30/1 on promotion on reconciliation in Sri Lanka was co-sponsored by the Lankan government headed by then President Maithripala Sirisena.
Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, in his address to the 43rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva announced the withdrawal while accusing the previous government in erring with co-sponsoring the resolution.
He declared a commitment to achieve sustainable peace “through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process, including through the appropriate adaptation of existing mechanisms”.
Gunawardena pledged to appoint a new Commission of Inquiry (COI), headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, to review the reports of the previous Sri Lankan probes which investigated alleged violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“We will implement policies rooted in the Government’s commitment to the people by advancing individual and collective rights and protections under the law, ensuring justice and reconciliation and addressing the concerns of vulnerable sections of society,” he said.
Gunawardena said Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.
Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsoring the resolution came after the US imposed travel restrictions on Army chief Lt Gen Shavendra Silva and his immediate family members over alleged gross violations of human rights during the final phase of the island nation’s Civil War in 2009.
Silva, 55, was appointed as the Sri Lankan Army Commander last year and previously headed the Army’s 58th Division in the final battle against the LTTE rebels of the civil war in 2009.
His brigade was accused of attacking civilians, hospitals and stopping humanitarian supplies to trapped Tamil civilians.
According to a United Nations report, some 45,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the last months of the war alone. (PTI)