COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A visiting United Nations special rapporteur said Monday that Sri Lanka is nowhere close to where it should be in dealing with allegations of war crimes and other rights violations from its decades-long civil war.
Pablo de Greiff, the special rapporteur for transitional justice, concluded a visit to the island nation in which he met with government leaders and travelled widely in the former war-torn areas of the country’s north and east.
He told reporters that many issues he highlighted during a visit more than two years ago remain unaddressed.
Even though there have been some developments, they don’t include the release of civilian lands occupied by the military, repealing a harsh anti-terror law, expediting cases against terror suspects incarcerated for long periods of time and stopping intimidating forms of surveillance.
“Each of these issues involves questions of basic rights and thus, the continued failure to achieve progress in fully addressing them constitutes a denial of justice,” de Grieff said.
“The delays raise questions in many quarters about the determination of the government to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice program,” he said.
Calls to the government spokesman seeking comment were unanswered Monday evening.
Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009 when government troops defeated Tamil separatist rebels who fought to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils. They accused the majority ethnic Sinhalese-controlled governments of systematic marginalization.
According to a U.N. report at least 40,000 civilians were killed in just the final months off the fighting and both sides were accused of serious human rights violations some amounting to war crimes.
After years of international pressure a government elected in 2015 promised to address the accountability issues. However it has been slow in implementing the program.
De Grieff will submit a detailed report on the issue to the U.N human rights council in September next year.