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UN chief Ban, top aide aware of Tamil massacre: Report

Source: PTI
May 31, 2009 17:42 IST
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The demand for an independent war crimes investigations into the "massacre" during the final days of the civil war in Sri Lanka has been intensified amid outrage that Vijay Nambiar, a top aide to UN Secretary-General was aware that over 20,000 Tamils were killed by the army.

Former Indian envoy Nambiar was informed more than a week ago that at least 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final assault against the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam guerrillas this month, The Times newspaper reported. Top officials at the world body told Nambiar, Ban Ki Moon's chief of staff, that their figures indicated a likely final death toll of more than 20,000, during a briefing in preparation for the UN Secretary-General's visit to the region on May 23, it said.

The casualty figure, revealed by the British daily on Friday, triggered an international outrage, with human rights groups seeking a probe into possible war crimes by the Lankantroops. Internationally, calls have been growing for an independent war crimes investigations and for access by humanitarian groups to the war zone and the 270,000 Tamil civilians who are still being detained.

Amnesty International called on the UN to release the estimated figures to help to push for a war crimes inquiry. "The Times investigation underscores the need for investigation and the UN should do everything it can to determine the truth about the 'bloodbath' that occurred in northeast Sri Lanka," said Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International. 
Zarifi said the Human Rights Council's decision not to call for specific measures to protect Sri Lankans "made a mockery of the council", but it does not mean the end of the international community's responsibility to respond to the human tragedy in the island nation.

In a rare public plea, the International Committee of the Red Cross sought access to the no-fire zone and internment
camps in the region. "We haven't been able to access the areas where most of these people would have fled from since the ending of the most recent fighting," Florian Westphal, the Red Cross spokesman, told a briefing in Geneva.
However, Sri Lanka has denied the allegation of the death of 20,000 people, which was is three times the official figure.
"These figures are way out . . . What we think is that these images are also fake. We totally deny the allegation that 20,000 people were killed," said Lakshman Hulugalle, a Defence Ministry spokesman.

According to the British paper, casualty estimates were given to The Times by UN sources, who explained in detail how they arrived at that calculation. The figures had been collated from deaths reported by priests and doctors and added to a count of the bodies brought to medical centers. The 20,000 figure has also been obtained by the French daily Le Monde, which quoted UN sources as saying that the figure had been kept under wrap to avoid a diplomatic storm.

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