The top UN human rights official arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday on a four-day visit aimed at reviewing the measures taken by the island-nation to investigate alleged atrocities committed during the long civil war that left tens of thousands dead.
The visit by Zeid Raad al-Hussein follows last year’s resolution at the UN human rights body that required foreign judges to assist Sri Lanka in the investigation. Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, after the government forces crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. Both sides were accused of committing grave human rights abuses such as killing civilians and recruiting child soldiers.
Since the end of the war, Sri Lanka has been facing heavy criticism for failing to properly investigate alleged war crimes by its forces. Victims’ families have been futile in their attempts to seek justice. According to UN estimates, at least 80,000 people were killed, and possibly many more, including up to 40,000 civilians in the last month of the war.
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Zeid last year presented a report focusing on the period from 2002 to 2011, in which he pointed out horrific abuses, including torture, executions, and sexual abuse by security forces, as well as suicide attacks, assassinations and recruitment of child soldiers by rebels. He called for the creation of a “hybrid special court” that would include foreign judges and investigators, saying Sri Lanka’s own courts are not yet ready to carry out a fair judicial process on the atrocities. However, Sri Lankan officials have previously said they would only accept foreign technical expertise and assistance.
During his visit, Zeid will travel to the former war zone and meet victims of human rights violations. He will also talk with top government officials, civil activists and religious leaders.