Colombo's deceit

( September 4, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As a Sri Lankan living in Bahrain, I feel strongly that my country should co-operate with a UN investigation into war crimes.

In the closing stages of a long and brutal civil war against Tamil separatists, in May 2009, government forces systematically shelled a strip of beach. Some 40,000 civilians were killed in a war crime that a UN report later confirmed. Ever since, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president, has dissembled, obfuscated and obstructed justice.

Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka would deny visas to UN investigators. His evasions are unconscionable. In 2010, Rajapaksa used the Delphic formulation that 'Sri Lanka never killed any civilians as such' in its attack on the beach. We know this is false.

Sri Lankan forces had continually adjusted their artillery in order to target an area that had been designated a safe zone, where 300,000 civilians were packed together in the vain hope of sanctuary.

The government first claimed that only terrorists had been attacked. They then maintained that photographic evidence of the crimes had been fabricated. These are lies. If Rajapaksa had a genuine interest in truth and accountability, he would have welcomed the decision by the UN Human Rights Council this year to investigate civilian deaths in the final stages of the war.

Instead, he insists absurdly that a local panel should do the investigation to avoid bias.

The principle of an international tribunal to prosecute war crimes was established at Nuremberg and Tokyo after the Second World War. The international community concluded that the horrors of the Bosnian war and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s also demanded tribunals.

It is not the prerogative of the accused to decide whether an investigation should take place. The UN should go ahead with its investigations, on the basis of copious information already available.