UN calls for accountability in Sri Lanka rights investigation

New York: The United Nations urged Sri Lanka on Tuesday to make sure it had strong systems for holding people accountable, as the island nation carried out its own investigations in abuses during a 26-year civil war.

The UN Human Rights Council has separately investigated atrocities in the war against Tamil separatists, but last month deferred its report, saying Colombo had shown a new willingness to open up to scrutiny.

Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, said he had urged the government “to take steps in the short term to address issues regarding land, detentions, disappearances, and the military posture in civilian areas”.

The United Nations and world powers expected Colombo to develop a “strong framework for accountability that meets international standards and norms,” he added at the end of a four-day visit.

The United Nations has estimated that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final weeks of the war that ended in 2009, mostly by the army. The government of the majority Sinhalese country rejected that assertion. Ethnic minority Tamils and their political leaders have demanded the government hand over land is occupied in the northern battle zone and free prisoners.

The UN Human Rights Council voted last March to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka, saying then President Mahinda Rajapaksa had failed to do so properly. But the government of new President Maithripala Sirisena, who took power in January, has promised to hold a fresh investigation under an independent judiciary and abide by UN conventions.