U.N.: Sri Lankan government responsible for ‘carnage’

While the controversy over the Goldstone retraction continues, the three-member panel tasked with investigating war crimes during the Sri Lankan government’s final offensive against the Tamil Tigers in 2009 has released its report, and it’s pretty damning:  Hospitals, UN centers and Red Cross ships were deliberately shelled by government forces, prisoners shot in the head ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images

While the controversy over the Goldstone retraction continues, the three-member panel tasked with investigating war crimes during the Sri Lankan government's final offensive against the Tamil Tigers in 2009 has released its report, and it's pretty damning: 

Hospitals, UN centers and Red Cross ships were deliberately shelled by government forces, prisoners shot in the head and women raped, it said. LTTE leaders used 330,000 civilians as a human shield and deliberately shot those who tried to escape.

"Tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days," said the three-member panel led by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darsman.

While the controversy over the Goldstone retraction continues, the three-member panel tasked with investigating war crimes during the Sri Lankan government’s final offensive against the Tamil Tigers in 2009 has released its report, and it’s pretty damning: 

Hospitals, UN centers and Red Cross ships were deliberately shelled by government forces, prisoners shot in the head and women raped, it said. LTTE leaders used 330,000 civilians as a human shield and deliberately shot those who tried to escape.

"Tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days," said the three-member panel led by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darsman.

"Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling," the report added. The UN experts said there were "credible allegations" of serious violations of international law by government forces and the LTTE "some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."

It’s not clear what this really means going forward. Secretary Ban Ki-moon says that an international investigation could only be conducted if Sri Lanka agreed to it or if it was ordered by the Security Council or Human Rights Council — none of which seem particularly likely scenarios. The report also criticizes U.N. agencies themselves for  failing to "take actions that might have protected civilians."

Sri Lanka has not yet responded, but as Mark Leon Goldberg notes, it’s likely to get ugly: 

Back in July, government-sponsored protesters blockaded the UN building in Colombo and burnt Ban Ki Moon in effigy after he merely announced he was forming a panel to look into the war crimes allegations. So, if that was the reaction back then, expect something even more unhinged this time around.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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