UN asks Sri Lanka to answer new war crime charges, AFP reports
In a recent letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, requested explanation for the shootings of surrendering LTTE Political wing leaders, unarmed cadets and their families.
Two weeks ago, former army chief Sarath Fonseka said that he had been informed by a state media reporter that the defence minister, who is also the president's brother, had wanted all surrendering rebels wiped out.
Sri Lanka recently staved off attempts by Western nations to launch a UN war crimes probe into the country's 37-year ethnic conflict that ended in May when the leaders of the Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in a major offensive.
A Russian and Chinese veto at the UN torpedoed attempts to launch an investigation, but the new allegations could strengthen the case to bring Colombo before a tribunal.
The UN estimates that up to 7,000 civilians died in the final stages of the war. This figure is disputed by the government.
Alston said in his letter, a copy of which was released by the president's office, that he wanted clarifications to keep the UN Human Rights Council informed.
In his letter Philip Alston specifically requested explanation for accepting the surrendering process and then turning around to order a "wipe out" of the surrendering LTTE leaders.
According to information I have received:
On 17 May 2009, the day before your Excellency's Government announced that its forces had completely defeated the LTTE. Messrs, Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh were trapped with other senior cadres of the LTTE in a small area north of Vellamullivaikkal. Through intermediaries they sought to establish contact with your Excellency's Government to inquire how they could surrender to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). The reply, coming from the Secretary of Defence in your Excellency's Government and from a Member of Parliament who is at the same time a senior adviser to the President, and conveyed through the intermediaries, was that they should walk towards the positions of the SLA in a way that made their intentions clear and holding a white cloth. The Commander of the SLA 58th Brigade, the unit on the front line with the last LTTE position, however, received a telephone call from the Secretary of Defence instructing him to order his forces to shoot those surrendering. When Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh walked towards the SLA positions carrying white cloths in the first hours of 18 May 2009, soldiers opened fire on them and killed them. An unspecified number of family members of the three men were killed as well.
The Sri Lankan Government officials said that they are working on a reply to the UN representatives.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan sources said that this UN move will benefit the Sri Lankan government in the upcoming elections, as the Sinhalese majority will view the killings as part of toning down the freedom struggle of the Tamil minority in the Island; consequently it will backfire Sarath Fonseka, the former military leader and current presidential candidate, who reported the incident during one of his election press meeting.