COLOMBO: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, has called for a probe into allegations that cluster bombs were used by the Sri Lankan Security Forces in the final phase of Eelam War IV.
Giving an update on the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution of September-October 2015 by Sri Lanka at the on-going 32 nd regular session of the UNHRC, Zeid said: “In light of recent reports on new evidence that has emerged on the use of cluster munitions towards the end of the conflict, following similar allegations in the OHCHR investigation report, the High Commissioner calls for an independent and impartial investigation to be carried out.”
According to the “Cluster Munition Coalition”, cluster bombs are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea. They open up in mid-air to release tens or thousands of sub-munitions which can saturate an area up to several football fields. Anybody within the strike area of cluster munitions is likely to be killed or seriously injured, the coalition’s website said.
The Guardian had recently come out with a long report with pictures, on the alleged use of the deadly cluster bombs in Pudumaatalan and other places in the closing stages of Eelam War IV.
Regarding war crimes, Zeid said: “ It is important to keep in mind the magnitude and complexity of the international crimes alleged, which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation found could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Speaking on the touchy issue of having foreign judges in the Judicial Mechanism to go into charges of war crimes, Zeid said that he remains “convinced” that international participation in the accountability mechanisms would be a necessary guarantee for the independence and impartiality of the process in the eyes of victims.
He charged that Sri Lanka’s judicial institutions “currently lack the credibility needed to gain their trust.”
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has however clearly stated that the Lankan forces had not committed war crimes. On Monday he assured Lankans that no Lankan soldier would be dragged before any judicial mechanism for war crimes. Sirisena has also said that Lanka will not allow foreign judges.
However, the UN Human Rights Commissioner was not one-sided. He acknowledged every bit of good work done so far by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to restore ethnic harmony and democracy. But he hastened to add that the “full promise of governance reform, transitional justice and economic revival is yet to be delivered and risks stalling or dissipating.”