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Sri Lanka: UN expert calls on all sides to act against extrajudicial killings

Sri Lanka: UN expert calls on all sides to act against extrajudicial killings

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The United Nations expert on arbitrary executions has called on all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to take more determined action to tackle the killings that have plagued the country in recent days.

“The failure to effectively investigate the killings has resulted in many areas of the North and East becoming zones of impunity for killers with different motivations and affiliations,” said Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

“This in turn generates inflammatory and often contradictory rumours that risk giving way to cycles of retaliation,” he added in Colombo, the capital, at the end of a visit to Sri Lanka, where Government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have waged a decades-long war.

On Tuesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly condemned the violence and expressed the hope that it would not hamper the commitment of the Government or rebels to the peace process.

Mr. Alston denounced the widespread killings of Tamil and Muslim civilians and members of the LTTE and security forces during and called for immediate confidence-building measures to strengthen the accountability of those responsible and for unequivocal denunciation of killings by all parties.

He noted that the LTTE issues many denials of involvement but said such statements were not credible in the face of evidence he had gathered. The upsurge in extrajudicial killings has been accompanied by a vacuum of investigative responsibility with the Police losing “much of their appetite for serious investigations,” he added.

He urged the Government and LTTE to explore models for strengthened human rights monitoring, including an enhanced role for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) consisting of Nordic countries, set up by a cease fire agreement brokered by Norway in 2002.

“While both parties should continue to explore other, specialized models for human rights monitoring, strengthening the role of the SLMM on these issues would be an important first step in promoting respect for human rights and building confidence among the parties and the people,” he said.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the UN Human Rights Commission.