The Sri Lankan government is grappling with the political fallout of a leaked UN report accusing it – and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels – of potential crimes against humanity in the closing days of the civil war.
The report on the final stage of the war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan authorities was leaked to the media, containing allegations, among others, that the army shelled hospitals, UN facilities and aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The report further alleges that the government intimidated and in some cases silenced the media, even abducting journalists in “white vans”.
Meanwhile, UK television network Channel 4 last week said it will air what it claims is “probably the most horrific” footage the station has ever shown, after obtaining “trophy” videos of what it claims are Sri Lankan war crimes.
According to the network, footage obtained by the station includes “extrajudicial executions filmed by Sri Lankan soldiers as war trophies on their phones; the aftermath of shelling in civilian camps and hospitals alleged to have been deliberately targeted by Sri Lankan government forces; dead female Tamil fighters who appear to have been systematically raped; and pictures which document Tamil fighters alive in the custody of Sri Lankan government forces and then later dead, apparently having been executed.”
The director of ITN productions, Callum Macrae, told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the filmmakers had “trawled through hours of devastating imagery shot by Tamils under attack and Sri Lankan soldiers as war trophies. The claims made by eyewitnesses in the film appear to be illustrated in each case by video footage or still images.”
The Sri Lankan government has reportedly complained to the UK’s media regulator Ofcom regarding the station’s intention to air the footage.
Channel 4’s announcement comes a week after a UN report on the closing days of the war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan authorities was leaked to the media, containing allegations, among others, that the army shelled hospitals, UN facilities and aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The report further alleges that the government intimidated and in some cases silenced the media, even abducting journalists in “white vans”.
“The government says it pursued a ‘humanitarian rescue operation’ with a policy of ‘zero civilian casualties’. In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the report reads.
“Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army. It implemented a policy of forced recruitment throughout the war, but in the final stages greatly intensified its recruitment of people of all ages, including children as young as fourteen. The LTTE forced civilians to dig trenches for its own defenses, thereby contributing to blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians and exposing civilians to additional harm. All of this was done in a quest to pursue a war that was clearly lost; many civilians were sacrificed on the altar of the LTTE cause and its efforts to preserve its senior leadership.
A former UN spokesperson for the UN in Sri Lanka was reported in the UK’s Independent newspaper as saying that the report “damns the government of Sri Lanka’s so-called war on terror, which incidentally killed many thousands of civilians. The Tamil Tigers were equally rotten in their disdain for life.”
Sri Lankan media has meanwhile been busily criticising the veracity of the report, the UN panel involved, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself.
Yesterday, Ki-moon announced that he would welcome a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, Security Council or General Assembly to launch an international war crimes investigation into the final two years of Sri Lanka’s civil war, as per the recommendation of the UN report.
Such a mandate would require consent from the Sri Lankan government – unlikely, given that it has labelled the report as “fundamentally flawed and patently biased” – or through a decision by the UN’s 192 member states.
The US Embassy in Sri Lanka has also privately expressed concerns about the Sri Lankan government’s actions during the closing days of the war.
In a leaked US Embassy cable sent on January 15 2010, Ambassador Patricia Butenis remarked there was a clear “lack of attention to accountability” following the mass killings of Tamils in the final days of the war, a situation she described as “regrettable” but unsurprising.
“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power,” Butenis said in the cable.
“In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and [then] opposition candidate General Fonseka.”
The UN report and subsequent international furore likely to be generated in the wake of the Channel 4 program places the Maldives in a difficult position, between its stated (and much promoted) human rights agenda, and its national and economic interest.
Sri Lanka is one of the Maldives’ key economic and regional partners, and a major transit hub for both trade and tourists visiting the country. President Mahindra Rajapaksa extended the Maldives a US$200 million credit line in November, and even travelled to the Maldives to mediate a dispute between the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in July last year. President Mohamed Nasheed subsequently attended Rajapaksa’s swearing in ceremony.
At the same time the Maldives is a vocal member of the UN Human Rights Council and an avid proponent of human rights, with the Foreign Ministry only recently declaring that it was severing diplomatic ties with the Libyan government due of “clear evidence that the Gaddafi regime is guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
It is not inconceivable that were the UN’s case to gather momentum and international public opinion, the matter could go to vote and the Maldives could be compelled to publicly defend its neighbour from the international community.
President Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair emphasised that the Maldives saw the end of both the terrorist attacks and the civil war in Sri Lanka as “a very positive development.”
“The government has very close ties with [Sri Lankan President] Rajapaksa,” Zuhair said. “Our position is that the Maldives has very good relations with neighbouring countries, and has hundreds if not thousands of years of trade and bilateral relationships with Sri Lanka.”
The post-war situation, he suggested, was “fluid”.
“I’m concerned the UN report is a bit belated. Why say it now? Why not when the war was going on? My point is that this report only appeared after the war was over. We support the Sri Lankan government’s desire for peace and harmony, and any government that brought about that peace should be held in high honour.”
If an investigation was to take place, Zuhair suggested, “it should happen in an independent manner, with reconciliation on both sides.”
The Maldives’ Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem is currently in the UK and was not responding at time of press.
30 thoughts on “UN war crimes report on Sri Lanka foreign policy challenge for Maldives”
Is Zuhair denying that this happened? Why is he being so defensive. Nut!
The reason made Maldives to severe ties with Libya not applicable for Srilanka?Maldives is not on the human rights side but on wrong side with full of war criminals,genocidal Srilanka.
Given the risk for Maldive and at a time when we are on a landslide of our economy, Zuhair is playing it safe. Any war is will violate humanity and from both sides. Zuhair does not need to sound like there is a hidden agenda behind it. Let it be exposed, dealt with and put behind. History does never been different.
Why should the "UN War crimes report on Sri Lanka' be perceived as a Foreign Policy Challenge for the Maldives?
The Maldives can easily extend its support to Sri Lanka and we must do so without any hesitation. Peace in our closest neighbor nation after 30 years of civil war is something to be welcomed and celebrated. Yes, there may have been abuses committed by both sides during the fog of war but this should not be a reason for the Maldives to hesitate in supporting Sri Lanka.
The US which is considered as one of the most strongest champions of Human Rights regularly vetoes any UN security council resolutions condemning human rights abuses committed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Such support to Israel doesn't pose any 'challenge' to the USA.
Rather than condemning the parties involved, it is time for the people of Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamils) to reconcile and concentrate on the challenges that face in rebuilding their nation after 30 years of war and a devastating tsunami.
so....when r U going to investicate war crime aginst USA in Afgan and Iraq????
Please tell us about what is happenning in Maldives, and less of what is important to neighbouring countries.
Thousands of people are protesting right now on the streets of Male'. Can you please tell us what is happenning?
Raajapakse government has brought peace & prosperity to Sri Lanka, which no other leadership was able to do for several decades & why is the UN / West fingering in their internal affairs. Instead the Lankan government should be applauded & supported at this time by the international community for the success brought to Sri Lanka's 25million people. Does the UN investigate when America & UK thwarted Iraq or when Israel bulldozed the entire Ghaza???
Maldives should always stand with SL as the friendship between these two countries is enormous & the relationship has existed for centuries. Sri Lanka's success is also Maldives' success and here Sri Lanka has not done anything wrong except to defend and protect it's nation from the ruthless Tamil terrorists that had crippled the country for over 30 years. Why should Maldives not support SL when the UN maintains double standards against favoring US, UK, Israel, etc.... Think about the atrocities by UK, US, France, Germany, Israel, Australia, etc...
WHAT HAPPEN TO HALF AMILLION PEOPLE KIL IN IRAQ.
WHAT HAPPEN TO US SOILDERS WHO KILL IRAQS WHEN IRAQ COURT FOUND US SOILDERAS GULITY USA FEDERAL COURT SAY THEY ARE NOT AND REALSE THEM
MALDIVE NEED TO STAY WITH ASIAN PARTNERS SRILANKA INDIA CHINA USA UK EU NEVER WANT TO SEE ASIAN COUNTRY STAND ON OUR FEET THEY WANT TO SEE WE ARE LIKE THIRD CLASS CITIZENS AND TREAT US LIKE TRASH. I AM LIVING IN USA THEY TALKING ABOUT ASIAN AND OTHER COUNTIES LIKE DOGS AND CATS.
THESE WHITE REDNECKS SO RACIST THEY
There is no challenge for foreign policy for Maldives if it maintains the same policy for all countries.
Terrorists Vellupillai Prabakaran etc have killed more that 70,000 innocent people over almost 30 years before the brave leader put an end to it and where were the UN and HUMAN RIGHTS people when the terrorists were killing the innocent. Where were the these people when the terrorists were brutally attacking civilians in the area and forcibly recruiting young to kill people.
Who has authorised UN approved convoys to go and kill people in other countrieson and on what grounds UN etc choose whom to be eliminated, it is not always oil. I can imagine the Terrorists killing people to acquire part of the country, what is that the UN wants?. They may be in Terrorsit payroll.
Hats off to Ilyas Ahmed and Kumaran indeed. What they are telling is purely truth.
Please don't hinder the peace process in Sri Lanka and put Tamils again in the hot water. All the efforts proposing by the different parties are not against Sri Lankan government, but against all the Sri Lankans especially the Tamil people.
The war itself is a crime anywhere. why is this sudden demand to investigate only "last days" of the Sri lanka's war? We should investigate 30 years of that war, why it happened, who ignited it, how to prevent it from repeating, etc and do justice to all communities who suffered immensely. This is exactly what the Sri Lankan LLRC is said to be doing.. because they want to have lasting peace in the country and a stable south asian region with it's friendly neigbours. the warmongering west seems to be VERY afraid of it. I think their NGO's were involved in destabilizing the country since the '70s which resulted in this tragic end. So they will use all their propaganda machines like Human rights groups (who attack only non-western countries), powerful media etc to disrupt the peace process. Let me remind all that arming, glorifying and supporting a terrorist group which is a crime and they have been doing it from the day 1 after independence. The truth will come out soon.
Lets Get this straight,this in NOT AN UN REPORT,its a report published by a panel appointed by ban ki moon.it has got NO LEGALITY.
Sri Lanka put down an ugly terrorist movement which was initially supported by India(they were taught a lesson by LTTE,by murdering Rajiv G)and later even upto now supported by USA,Norway,UK(sadly UK doesn't understand it is not a superpower,but like a bulldog without teeth,which even cant defend its own country-remember july 7th bombings in London)France.The World will support Sri Lanka rejecting the calls of a war crimes investigations.Most of the so called independant media is on the LTTE payroll
The pro LTTE groups wanted to make sure that the regional division is there in order to isolate Sri Lanka. But, Sri Lanka always stood Maldives whenever it needed a third party support. While the whole world is celebrating the demise of a leading guru of global terror, no one seems to praise the act done by Sri Lanka to eradicate the guru who has introduced the suicide culture, the illicit gun and drug trafficking, and child exploitation to put up an unconventional army to promote the terrorism in the name of Eelam in the island nation ..
I welcome Mr Zuhair's comment for an independent investigation on War Crimes and genocide in Srilanka.
this is a test case. Soon the international community would find out if Maldives can live up to its professed ideals of a human rights champion or if its just a joke.
The top hierarchy of the LTTE terrorists are dead and gone. However, there are others mostly based abroad who still carry out black propaganda against Sri Lanka. A Nuremberg style set up to bring these and closet terrorists to justice is called for. The latter were the source of most of the “evidence” provided to the UN.
Sri Lanka should also be very careful as to who is provided with dual nationality as well known terrorist supporters seem to been granted this privilege.
Maldives should be very car full that we must not do anything to stop an independent investigation it the war crime investigation.
we do not want blood of the Tamils in out hands. Those people who act against human kind will be punished by god. There is no escape from justice from above.
this is interesting. a real challenge for mr Nasheed
70% of people in srilanka is sinhalese. 20% tamil. Is it justifiable to request half of the country for 20% of tamils?
However, there is a clear majority of tamils in the world even though they do not have their own country. So they collect money against srilanka and make properganda like channel 4 which is funded by tamil diaspora.
Killing a deadliest terrorist is a crime! Is there a god in this world?
How many people were killed by LTTE?
Come to srilanka and see now it the safest and peaceful country in the world. Humanright situation is much better than in war era.
Nasheed is our hero. I worry that day by day he is detaching from the real democratic values he held when he rallied for the freedon of Maldivian people. It would be desasterous to follow the footsteps of US by saying something and doing something else. In this matter & every other matter Maldives should support any investigation on alleged war crimes. That doesn't mean Maldives can't express our gratitude of Srilankan peace. Nasheed must pursue what he promised for the common people. We considered him among us ordinary men. But i'm afraid he is moving away from this.
Why the hell western is so concerned about war crimes committed by SL? The killing done by US in Iraq, Afghan now in Libia are not War Crimes? Where are the human right groups? Why no investigation on those killings?
Innocent civilians were killed by LTTE and there are numerous evidences. The moppets of Tamil Diaspora like Channel 4 and Ban Ki Moon well paid by LTTE.
30years of bloody war was ended and now we have a peaceful life in SL. People can go out safely. Unlike before Suicide bombers, Bombs in public transports and Kidnappings done by LTTE made the whole country a Grave Yard.
Western world go mind your own business, don’t try to cover your crimes by punishing Sri Lanka for nothing. We all know what you are up to. Look at the statement made by Mr. Obama on killing Bin Laden, "JUSTICE IS DONE" no matter how long it takes. What's the hidden joy??? We have taken the revenge by killing Bin Laden. Whole Asia knows thousands of innocent were killed by US in Afghan. Mr. Ban Ki Moon go investigate the war crimes commit by US and UN.
Still wonder how Maldives forgot the coup plot by PLOTE sponsored by Srilankan Govt and want to be a 'friend' of Srilanka?
Rajapakse is no hero. He killed Tamils and cruelly. he is another Pinochet or Milosevic who should be tried at ICJ.
Being a terror nation,Srilanka is a threat to humanity.The Srilankan Army massacred and even bulldozered civilians.Maldives should severe ties with Srilanka immediately.Please dont support state sponsored terrorism.
As citizen's of Sri Lanka as well as people who suffered under prakaran's terror, I can only have a laugh about all these nonsense created by so called human right watch guards of the world.
All Sri Lankans are now living peacefully. This is a conspiracy against Sri Lanka and brave leaders who didn't knee down in front of western countries.
LTTE was clearly the most brutal TERRORIST group on this world who introduced SUICIDE BOMBINGS to the other terrorist groups.
Why Cant all the TAMILS in the world go to TamilNadu and demand a seperate state for them from INDIA,there are over 60 mil tamils.Wouldn't that be a fair demand than trying to carve half of Sri lanka for one million tamils.
Why should all tamils go to Tamilnadu?Srilankan Tamils have a 2500 years of history.Their homeland is Srilanka.Tamilnadu tamils homeland is tamilnadu.Some crooks knowing this,they spread lies like their Mahavamsa.
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