Sri Lanka criticizes UN report on civilian deaths at end of bloody conflict
By Bharatha Mallawarachi ,AP
November 25, 2012, 12:16 am TWN
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's government has criticized a United Nations report on the conclusion of island's civil war, saying the allegations against the government are "unsubstantiated and erroneous."
In a response to an internal review of the world body released last week, the External Affairs ministry said Friday that the report "appears to be another attempt at castigating Sri Lanka for militarily defeating" the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, who fought for a separate state in the Indian ocean island nation.
The U.N. report said the world body's own inadequate efforts to protect civilians in 2009 during the bloody final months of the civil war marked a "grave failure" that led to suffering for hundreds of thousands of people.
The report also accused U.N. staff in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, of not perceiving that preventing civilian deaths was their responsibility and accused their bosses at U.N. headquarters of not telling them otherwise. A separate U.N. report released last year said up to 40,000 ethnic minority Tamil civilians may have been killed in the war's final months.
The report also accused the government of working to intimidate U.N. staff, of withholding visas of those critical of the government and of planting false allegations against them in the media.
Those accusations against the government drew Friday's rebuke from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry.
"While this report is an internal review of the U.N.'s action in Sri Lanka during the terrorist conflict, the ministry's attention has been drawn to certain issues with regard to allegations directed at the government of Sri Lanka, which are regrettably unsubstantiated, erroneous and replete with conjecture and bias," the ministry said in a statement.
It said the U.N. report did not mention the "intransigence of the LTTE, which held the people as a human shield, and even shot in cold blood those who tried to escape to gain their freedom." LTTE is the acronym for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
However, contrary to the government's assertion, the U.N. report was heavily critical of the rebels and accused them of holding tens of thousands of Sri Lankan civilians as human shields and shooting those who tried to escape.
The report was compiled by a committee headed by former U.N. official Charles Petrie. It investigated U.N. actions as the quarter-century war between the government, dominated by the ethnic Sinhalese majority, and minority Tamil rebels ended in 2009 in a wave of violence.
The ministry also expressed concerns about the leak of the report. The BBC reported on a draft of the report a day before it was issued last week.
The draft, also obtained by The Associated Press shortly before it was released, had an "executive summary" that detailed the U.N.'s failure on the ground, saying that the political conditions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the U.S. made countries less likely to stop a government fighting against a group — the Tamil Tiger rebels — that many had branded a terrorist organization.
The executive summary was deleted from the official published version issued Nov. 14.
The ministry said the leaking of the report was "unacceptable" and questioned the "bona fides of the authorship of the document and its underlying motivation."
It also referred to the removal of summary, saying it left the Sri Lankan government "to surmise that references which may serve positively are those which have been censored."