Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem has told journalists in Colombo that the UN report into human rights abuses in the closing days of the country’s civil war is “singularly counterproductive.”
The report was leaked to the Sri Lankan media several weeks ago and contains allegations that the army shelled hospitals, UN facilities and aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the final days of the civil war between the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The report also accuses the Sri Lankan government of intimidating and in some cases abducting journalists “in white vans”. The LTTE was criticised for allegedly using civilians as human shields.
A former UN spokesperson based in Sri Lanka told media after the report was leaked that it “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.”
“The focus should now be on how the country can move forward,” Naseem said, during a press conference at the Galle Face Hotel.
“As a responsible member of the Human Rights Council, the Maldives believes it is imperative that the international community closely examine all aspects of the report before taking any further action.”
The UK’s television network Channel 4 has meanwhile 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 Sri Lankan media has overwhelming supported the government against the UN report, contrasting war crime accusations from the West with the triumphalism displayed following the death of Osama Bin Laden.
“We suffered 30 years of ruthless terror, our innocent villagers were massacred, our security officers, innocent men, women and children were killed by suicide bomb blasts and snipers, our ministers, parliamentarians and presidents were killed or disabled for life, our children were massacred in trains, innocent travelers in buses were bombed, a bus load of our Buddhist priests were butchered,, our airports were bombed and terrorism restricted our daily existence,” wrote one commentator on the Lankaweb social media website.
Under the UN’s own regulations a formal war crimes investigation can only be launched on the invitation of the host country, or through a mandate voted by a body such as the UN Human Rights Council.
The Maldives has been a vocal member of the latter, and was quick to sever diplomatic ties with the Libyan government following “clear evidence that the Gaddafi regime is guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“I’m concerned the UN report is a bit belated. Why say it now? Why not when the war was going on?” asked President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, speaking to Minivan News recently.
“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,” Zuhair said.
If an investigation was to take place, Zuhair suggested, “it should happen in an independent manner, with reconciliation on both sides.”
Read the full UN report (English)