Sri Lanka Tamils call for inquiry into UN's 'failure to save civilians' in bloody civil war
Sri Lanka's largest Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, has called for an international inquiry into United Nations' failure to protect civilians during the final stages of the country's bloody 26-year civil war.
The call comes a day after the United Nations admitted that it did not protect thousands of civilians, mostly ethnic Tamils, who were trapped in areas of heavy shelling in Sri Lanka.
"The internal inquiry report that has now come to light say the U.N. failed civilians by leaving the area," M.A. Sumanthiran, the Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian, told CNN.
Sumanthiran was referring to the withdrawal of the UN's international staff from north Sri Lanka's Wanni area.
In late 2008, the government could not guarantee the safety of U.N. staff there because of intense fighting between its forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE.
As the U.N. prepared to leave, local civilians pleaded them to stay, fearing the government would bomb areas where there were no international witnesses.
In the report released on Wednesday, the United Nations questioned its decision to move its staff 'because of a government safety warning when government forces themselves represented the dominant threat to staff'.
The Sri Lankan government declared victory in 2009 in its decades-long battle with the Tamil Tiger rebels, who had waged war for an independent state for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka since July 1983, the report said.
As many as 70,000 people were killed in the conflict, it added.
In its report this week, the U.N. admitted to withholding the large number of civilian casualties it had recorded from diplomatic corps in the country.
According to the report, the number of civilian deaths and injuries are unknown to this day, and U.N. figures greatly differ from those in reports from Sri Lanka's government and other nongovernmental organizations.
"The UN's failure to adequately respond to events like those that occurred in Sri Lanka should not happen again. When confronted by similar situations, the UN must be able to meet a much higher standard in fulfilling its protection and humanitarian responsibilities," the U.N. report concluded.