COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka warned the United Nations on Thursday that publicly releasing a report on alleged war crimes committed as its civil war was ending could harm efforts at post-war ethnic reconciliation.
External Affairs Minister Gamini Peiris told reporters that the U.N. panel overstepped its mandate and became an investigative rather than an advisory body to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The report handed to Ban last week harshly criticized the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels on their conduct and said there were credible war crimes allegations against both sides.
The U.N. has not released the report officially, but media reports have described parts of it.
“It’s wrong to publish the report. It’s equally wrong and unacceptable to take any steps at all on the basis of any findings or recommendations contained in the report,” Peiris said.
“We are very conscious of the fact that need of the hour is reconciliation.”
“… does it (U.N. report) further that objective or does it make the accomplishment of that objective more difficult than it needs to be?”
Ban’s deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told media in New York on Wednesday that the report is expected to be released this week and the secretary-general’s senior advisers have “completed their review of the report.”
The U.N. panel’s report called the conduct of the war a “grave assault” on international law and said there were allegations that the government and Tamil Tiger rebels committed serious violations, including some that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It said tens of thousands died in just the last five months of the quarter-century war that ended in May 2009.
The report accused the government of large scale shelling of no-fire zones where it had encouraged the civilians to concentrate, hospitals, U.N. hub, food distribution lines and near Red Cross ships that came to pick up the wounded civilians.
It said Tamil Tiger rebels recruited children to its fighting forces, held civilians as human shields, used them in forced labour blurring their identity and exposed them to danger by firing heavy weapons from nearby positions.
U.N. documents at the time said that more than 7,000 civilians were killed in the last five months of the fighting alone.
The panel also criticized U.N. bodies and international officials of not acting to protect civilian lives and not publicizing casualty figures in its possession to show the human toll of the war.
Tamil Tigers fought for 26 years to create an independent state for Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority Tamils. Majority ethnic Sinhalese control the government and the armed forces.
According to U.N. figures, between 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the fighting.