GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Tuesday for national reconciliation in Sri Lanka and said he would visit the country for a first-hand look at displacement camps and the former war zone.
Sri Lankan TV broadcast what appeared to be the corpse of the man who led the Tamil Tiger armed separatist movement for 25 years after the army’s military victory brought all the island under government rule for the first time since 1983.
“I am relieved by the conclusion of the military operation but I am deeply troubled by the loss of so many civilian lives,” Ban said. “It is most important that every effort be undertaken to begin a process of healing and national reconciliation.”
“A sustainable and equitable political solution” must follow emergency relief aid and reconstruction, he said.
Ban said he hoped his May 22-23 visit would help facilitate dialogue in the country where rebels from the Tamil minority had been fighting for a separatist homeland.
“We urgently need to treat the wounds of a war that has alienated the communities in the island for almost three decades,” he told a news briefing in Geneva, expressing support for a “credible devolution of power.”
“The legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Tamil people and other minorities must be fully addressed,” Ban said.
The U.N. chief said he would speak with civilians uprooted by the recent violence and review conditions in the war zone, which had been largely closed to outsiders and the press, “for a first-hand assessment of conditions on the ground.”
Asked whether Sri Lankan authorities should face scrutiny for possible abuses in their drive to end the Tamil rebellion, Ban backed calls for a closer look at possible abuses that took place on both sides of the fighting.
“Wherever serious and credible allegations are made of grave and persistent violations of international humanitarian laws, these should be properly investigated,” Ban said. “I hope these allegations are handled through appropriate procedures.”
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has backed an inquiry into possible war crimes in Sri Lanka which she said last week may have become a “killing field.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council said in a statement it expects to hold a special session on Sri Lanka Monday, May 25.
European Union countries have struggled for several weeks to marshal support for the extraordinary review, which requires the support of one-third of the forum’s 47 member states.
Germany called for the emergency session on behalf of 17 states, including two major powers (Britain and France), but only one Asian country (South Korea).
It will be 11th special session in three years at the Council, which has previously examined abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories, Myanmar and Sudan’s Darfur region.
“The Human Rights Council cannot be silent when innocent civilians are caught up in armed conflicts,” said Nigerian ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, the Council president.
“The international community must strive to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations wherever they occur and ensure that those found guilty of such crimes are held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Additional reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Richard Balmforth