UN releases report on Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS, April 25, 2011 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan army killed most of the tens of thousands of civilian victims of a final offensive against Tamil separatists in 2009 but both sides may be guilty of war crimes, a UN panel said Monday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he could not order an international investigation into the deaths. But the UN will hold an inquiry into its actions in the final months of the war following criticism by the panel that more could have been done to save lives.

The panel’s report — angrily opposed by the Sri Lankan government — painted a barbarous picture of the final offensive on the Tamil enclave in the north of the island that ended a three-decade war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Hospitals, UN centers and Red Cross ships were deliberately shelled by government forces, prisoners shot in the head and women raped, it said. LTTE leaders used 330,000 civilians as a human shield and deliberately shot those who tried to escape.

“Tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days,” said the three-member panel led by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darsman. “Most civilian casualties in