* Pillay says Sri Lanka has failed to investigate
* Colombo rejects her report as arbitrary, political
* UN rights body to address the issue in March
(Adds details, Sri Lankan government response)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Feb 25 The U.N. human rights chief
called for an international inquiry into war crimes committed by
both sides during Sri Lanka's civil war, saying the government
had failed to do its own credible investigation.
In a much anticipated report ahead of a U.N. Human Rights
Council debate next month that could order action on the issue,
Navi Pillay on Monday recommended an "independent, international
inquiry mechanism, which would contribute to establishing the
truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed".
U.S. plans to propose a resolution against Sri Lanka at the
meeting and Pillay's report, based on her visit to the country
last August, add to pressure on the government.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's administration, in 18 pages of
comments as long as Pillay's report, rejected the
recommendations as "arbitrary, intrusive and of a political
Many thousands of civilians were killed, injured or remain
missing after the 25-year conflict between government forces and
separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north
of the island that ended in May 2009, Pillay said in her report
to the Geneva forum.
She said there had been little progress in establishing
accountability for "emblematic" wartime crimes, including the
January 2006 killing of five students on a beach and the
execution of 17 aid workers later that August.
"None of these cases has ... resulted in the perpetrators
being brought to justice," she said.
Conclusions of a national Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
Commission have been rejected or ignored, such as its finding
that the army was responsible for shelling civilian areas,
Her report did not just direct criticism to the government,
but also suggested Tamil Tiger rebels ought to be investigated
for any involvement in some of the incidents.
"The High Commissioner (Pillay) is also concerned that legal
proceedings have not begun against any LTTE suspect for alleged
war crimes or other human rights abuses," the report said.
The report also focused on allegations of abuses after the
end of the conflict, although the government says the country is
on the path to reconciliation helped by fast economic growth.
It drew attention to concerns that women were vulnerable to
sexual harassment and violence when there was a heavy military
presence, such as in the northern Tamil heartland, an allegation
rejected by Sri Lankan government.
The government said its survey covering 2007-2012 had shown
that a majority of the reported incidents of sexual violence in
the north were carried out by close relatives or neighbours and
"only a very few could be attributed to the security forces".
Pillay also voiced concern at rising attacks by Buddhist
monks on minority Muslims and Christians and at harassment of
activists, lawyers and journalists.
Pillay said she had received information on 280 incidents of
threats and violence against Muslims and 103 against Christians
in 2013 alone.
Rejecting the numbers cited, the government said there had
been "sporadic incidents focusing on places of worships of all
four religions" and it was erroneous to note that there has been
a significant surge in attacks against religious minorities.
(Additional reporting by Shihar Aneez in Colombo; Editing by