Sri Lanka conflict: UN chief fears war crimes on both sides

GENEVA, March 13, 2009 (AFP) – United Nations’ human rights chief Navi Pillay said Friday she feared both sides could be guilty of war crimes in the Sri Lanka conflict and that more than 2,800 civilians could have been killed since late January. “Certain actions being undertaken by the Sri Lankan military and by the LTTE (Tamil Tiger rebels) may constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” said Pillay in a statement.

“We need to know more about what is going on, but we know enough to be sure that the situation is absolutely desperate. The world today is ever sensitive about such acts that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she added.

The statement said credible sources had told the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that more than 2,800 civilians might have been killed, including hundreds of children, and more than 7,000 injured since January 20.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry says troops are on the verge of defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1972.

Many of the casualties were inside areas designated as safe “no-fire” zones by the Sri Lankan government, the OHCHR statement adde