Although the international media spotlight may be focused on Syria, the United Nations recently called for another nation, Sri Lanka, to confront its history of “grave patterns of violence” that resulted from the final stages of the twenty-six year civil war that plagued the nation. A previous U.N. report estimated that 40,000 civilians died in the final army offensive in the war. It was just recently, however, that a long-awaited report by the Human Rights Council accused the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebel group of the atrocities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, spoke out last week about the atrocities that occurred in Sri Lanka, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harrowing accounts of torture and sexual violence, recruitment of children, and other crimes. The Human Rights Council has therefore urged Sri Lanka to create a hybrid war crimes court with international judges.
The result of this U.N. proposal within Sri Lanka’s government has been mixed. Most fervently in opposition to the suggestion is former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Although he won the civil war in 2009, his military has been credited with killing thousands of civilians. On the other side, however, is the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated Northern Province and former Supreme Court Judge, C. V. Wigneswaran. Wigneswaran has welcomed the findings of the U.N. report and has urged others in the government to think carefully about the international expectations resulting from the report’s documentation of the tragedy.