A United Nations (UN) advisory panel, led by former Indonesian Atty. Gen. Marzuki Darusman, has submitted a report to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which finds credible evidence that the Sri Lankan military shelled civilians in no-fire zones and sought to silence critics in a brutal fashion, during the war against guerilla group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
the UN deeply regretted the leak to the mainstream media. It also noted that the UN would publish the report in full next week, along with a response from the Sri Lankan government.
Here are some key highlights from the leaked report as published in The Island:
Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling. […]
A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage.
The report also accuses the LTTE of forcibly recruiting ethnic Tamil citizens to fight for them; they also killed other Tamils who tried to flee as the Sri Lankan army surrounded them in the North of Sri Lanka during the war.
South Asian diaspora blog Pickled Politics reports:
The UN is also criticised in the reporting for failing “to take actions that might have protected civilians.” The panel says casualty figures collected by the UN should have been made public at the time.
The blog opines:
Releasing casualty figures isn’t enough. Why was the world happy to sit by and watch while this was going on, and ignore the pleas of Tamils everywhere to intervene?
The Sri Lankan government has condemned the 196 page report, dismissing it as flawed and biased.
This particular attack on us is not unexpected.
Rajiva in a detailed analysis questions the initial figures of the victims of shelling quoted by Chris du Toit, UN security officer accusing him of trying to build a case against Sri Lanka. He continues:
I should note too that there are strange discrepancies between the story told by Du Toit in the UN Report, the much more circumspect reports of allegations made in the US State Department Report of late 2009, and the allegations on Tamil Net made at the time of the supposed incident.
The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has gone one step ahead in calling for turning May Day worker rallies into a massive “show of strength” against the UN panel's findings – reports JDS. The UN has warned Sri Lanka to protect its staff.
Last year Global Voices reported how the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was the focus of a protest, as Sri Lankan Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa began a hunger strike outside the UN office in Colombo to protest against the newly set up UN panel which submitted this report. This time around too, Ban Ki Moon was not spared on Sri Lankan websites like Lanka Rising.
Groundviews posted the Tamil National Alliance's (TNA) response which welcomed the recommendations made by the panel and hoped that they will be honestly implemented. They also urged the Sri Lankan government to “constructively engage in a process which would result in all the Peoples of Sri Lanka being the beneficiaries of genuine democracy, equality and justice.”
This is the same number that was flagged as the casualty figure over a year ago, only to be ridiculed by government. The difference now is that the UN Panel report is itself suggesting the accurate number of those killed is closer to 40,000.
Ratmale at Serendipity provides his opinion on the furor over the advisory panel's report to Ban Ki Moon:
We are back to this saga, which will not go away, as long as this issue is met with completely opposing views within the island. […]
For those who say this is only a Sinhala country, then I cannot have a rational discussion on this subject. For those who believe this is a country of all the races and creeds that live in it, then it is time we act in a UNITED voice and opinion. It is important therefore to address the grievances of the Tamil people, as represented by the TNA, In order to achieve this goal, so that we can have a hopeful and prosperous future for all who live in Sri Lanka.
I believe if we are to justify to the world that we can put behind this moment in history and move on, the victims of this conflict need closure, and this has not been addressed satisfactorily and I do not believe the Government is in any rush.