UN Rights Chief Meets Sri Lankan War Survivors

By Eranga Jayawardena 28 August 2013

MULLIVAIKKAL, Sri Lanka — Survivors of Sri Lanka’s civil war complained on Tuesday to the United Nations’ human rights chief about missing relatives, military land grabs and a life without basic facilities more than four years after the end of the quarter-century war.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visited Mullivaikkal village in northern Sri Lanka, the site of the final battle between government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, where hundreds of civilians are alleged to have died.

Pillay told the survivors that she will raise their complaints with government authorities when she meets them later this week.

Earlier, Pillay visited northern Jaffna, the cultural heartland of ethnic minority Tamils, where a group of civilians carrying pictures of their missing relatives called for help in finding them.

Pillay is on a weeklong visit to assess the situation before reporting to the UN Human Rights Council next month. The council passed a resolution in March urging Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by government soldiers and the rebels.

Government troops defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, ending their attempt to create a separate state for Tamils. A UN report said government troops may have killed 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final phase of the war.

Many civilians and rebels said to have surrendered to the military toward the end of the fighting are reported missing.

The rebels are accused of killing civilians, using them as human shields and recruiting child soldiers.

Human rights groups say the military has seized about 6,400 acres (2,589 hectares) of land from war victims since the end of the fighting and now run farms on the land.