Sri Lanka faces renewed pressure over war crime accountability

COLOMBO — The Sri Lankan government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been placed in the hot seat ahead of a U.N. Human Rights Council session beginning later this month amid a failure to ensure accountability for alleged war crimes toward the end of the country’s quarter-century long armed conflict.

In a stinging report released on Jan. 27, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the 47 member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to impose targeted sanctions against top military officials for human rights violations and crimes against humanity after the South Asian island nation failed to ensure justice for thousands killed during the war that ended in 2009.

Bachelet also made an unprecedented call on member states by recommending that they “refer” Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court. The U.N. estimates that at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed during the final stage of the war in 2009 between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels who were fighting for a separate state. Tamils currently amount to over 11% of the population.

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