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UN chief urges Sri Lanka to redress wrongs of war ‎

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) visits a resettlement village in Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula on September 2, 2016. - AFP

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) visits a resettlement village in Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula on September 2, 2016. - AFP

06/09/2016 16:27

The United Nations chief urged Sri Lanka last week to do more to redress wrongs committed during 26 years ‎of war with Tamil rebels, including returning land and restoring the accountability of the judiciary and ‎security services. On a three-day official visit to Sri Lanka, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on ‎Friday praised the efforts of President Maithripala Sirisena's administration since coming to power last ‎year to address some rights abuses committed during the war. "But more can and should be done to ‎address the legacy of the past and acknowledge the voices of the victims," he told a gathering in ‎Colombo, without mentioning the army or the rebels.  "Sri Lanka is still in the early stages of regaining ‎its rightful position in the region and the international community."‎

Dozens of Sri Lankan nationalists, who back ousted president Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Thursday ‎protested against Ban's visit, demanding he leave the island and stop an investigation into alleged ‎abuses at the end of the civil war. Rajapaksa's administration crushed the separatist Liberation Tigers of ‎Tamil Eelam in 2009. The United Nations and rights groups have accused the military of killing ‎thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, during the final weeks of the conflict.‎

The Tamil Tigers were also accused of widespread abuses during the conflict, such as using child ‎soldiers and targeting civilians with suicide bombers, including an attack on the central bank in 1996 ‎which killed nearly 100 people and wounded more than 1,000.‎

Sirisena's administration has established offices to look into reconciliation and missing persons while it ‎also has returned some military-occupied lands in the north. However, Sirisena, also the defence ‎minister, has yet to withdraw the military from the former war zones. Ban said there was still much ‎work to be done "in order to redress the wrongs of the past and to restore the legitimacy and ‎accountability of key institutions, particularly the judiciary and the security services".  "I also urge you ‎to speed up the return of land so that the remaining communities of displaced people can return home. ‎In parallel, the size of the military force in the North and East could be reduced, helping to build trust ‎and reduce tensions."‎

Ban also visited northern Jaffna, centre of the would be homeland of the rebels, where he said the ‎United Nations would help Tamils in the resettlement process.  Around 500 Tamils gathered in front of ‎Jaffna library, the symbol of Tamil learning and one of biggest libraries in Asia before it was burnt by a ‎mob in 1981, and urged Ban to help find relatives who disappeared in the war and ensure the release of political prisoners.  (Source: Reuter)‎

06/09/2016 16:27