Australian legal experts call for United Nations to act on Sri Lanka

The United Nations Human Rights Council should pass resolution 25/1 to establish an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war, according to a statement jointly delivered to the UN in Geneva today by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).

‘An international investigation is needed to promote accountability for serious and credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to achieve peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,’ said PIAC Senior Policy Officer, Daniela Gavshon, in her address to the meeting.

In February 2014, PIAC released the landmark report, Island of Impunity?. It shed light on some of the worst alleged international crimes committed in the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war.

‘PIAC’s investigation found reasonable grounds to suspect that acts, which could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, took place,’ said Ms Gavshon.

‘Importantly, one new witness alleges that, after the conflict, the Sri Lankan Government has systematically exhumed civilian mass graves and destroyed crucial evidence of human remains. This highlights the need for urgent action by the UN,’ said Ms Gavshon.

In March 2014, the HRLC released the report, Can’t flee, can’t stay. The report found that Australia’s forced returns of Sri Lankan asylum seekers put them at an unacceptably high risk of torture and mistreatment when they are sent back.

‘In addition to examining past violations, the resolution will establish necessary monitoring of the serious ongoing human rights situation in Sri Lanka,’ said Emily Howie, Director of Advocacy and Research at the HRLC.

‘It is an important step towards reconciliation and peace, in the absence of which Sri Lankans will continue to flee to find safety and security,’ said Ms Howie.

The Human Rights Council is due to vote on the resolution later this week.?Island of Impunity? is available here.  Can’t flee, can’t stay is available at on the HRLC website.

MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC (Australia) Gemma Pearce: +61 478 739 280 or [email protected]. In Geneva, Emily Howie (HRLC): +41 764 055 413 or [email protected]; Edward Santow (PIAC): +41 79170 92 13 or [email protected].

Photo: Daniela Gavshon addressing the UN Human Rights Council. 

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