Sri Lanka is not formally on the agenda of the Security Council. However, the advances by the government forces in the spring of 2009, in their fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), cornered for several weeks until their ultimate defeat in May 2009 in a few square mile area in the North-East where tens of thousands of civilians were trapped, has caused grave humanitarian concerns, and prompted the Security Council to seize itself of the matter.
At an informal meeting of the UN Security Council held on 22 April 2009 in the presence of the representative of Sri Lanka, France condemned the refusal of the LTTE that civilians leave the war zone. It stressed that the Sri Lankan authorities had the responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance and shelter for civilian populations in transit sites and refugee camps, in line with international humanitarian law.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his British counterpart David Miliband went to Sri Lanka on 28 April 2009. They visited the hospital that France deployed at Vavuniya, in addition to the strengthening of French aid to humanitarian actors.
On 11 May 2009 in New York, Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband chaired a meeting on Sri Lanka, which was attended by members of the Security Council of UN and representatives of the United Nations Secretariat (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), and several NGOs.
The Security Council met on 13 May 2009 to discuss the issue of Sri Lanka. It issued a press statement which was prepared at the initiative of France, the United Kingdom and Austria. In this statement, the Members of the Security Council in particular express grave concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis, strongly condemn the LTTE for its acts of terrorism, demand that the LTTE lay down its arms, and call on the Government of Sri Lanka to take the further necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the trapped civilians and the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them.
The Secretary-General paid a visit to the region on 22-23 May 2009, just after the fighting ended. A joint communiqué with President Rajapakse was issued on that occasion in which the Sri Lankan government made a certain number of commitments, notably with regard to displaced persons, the fight against impunity, and national reconciliation. On the basis of these commitments, the Secretary General indicated his intention to establish a panel of experts to advise him on the fight against impunity.
In May 2010, the Sri Lankan government for its part announced the establishment of a Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation.
On 2 June 2010, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs’ Spokesperson made the following statement :
"The establishment by the Colombo authorities of a “Commission on the lessons learned from the conflict and on reconciliation” is a positive step which we welcome.
"France now expects this commission to set to work and examine all of the allegations of war crimes that it receives, including those from non-governmental organizations and international bodies.
"At the same time, France has, from the outset, supported the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to use a team of international experts tasked with investigating the cases of human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict.
"These two processes are not incompatible; they complement each other. We hope that they will allow full light to be shed on these violent acts and ensure that those responsible will be brought to justice.
"France believes that the fight against impunity plays a critical role in the reconstruction of Sri Lanka and the establishment of lasting peace in this country".
On 22 June 2010, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a Panel of Experts that will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict.
The next day , the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs’ Spokesperson made the following statement :
"France welcomes the official announcement by the UN Secretary-General of the establishment of a panel of experts tasked with investigating the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in Sri Lanka.
"Sri Lanka has, since the end of the conflict, pledged to investigate these allegations and to shed full light on these possible acts of violence.
"In parallel to the work of the “Commission on lessons learned from the war and reconciliation” implemented by the Colombo authorities, France encourages this country to work closely with this panel of experts so that the war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law do not go unpunished and in order to allow all Sri Lankans to finally achieve lasting peace. "
The Sri Lankan authorities, considering that the UNSG panel was unnecessary and inappropriate, have criticised it. In particular, it allowed demonstrations to take place in front of the UN headquarters in Colombo.
The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs responded on 9 July 2010 in the following terms to these events:
"France condemns the organization of demonstrations before the United Nations office in Colombo at the instigation of a Government minister. These demonstrations, preventing staff from entering the building or leaving it, interferes with the essential work conducted daily by the UN to help the people of Sri Lanka. This is not acceptable.
France regrets that the deteriorating situation and the inability of UN employees to carry out their mission have led United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to recall its Resident Coordinator in Colombo back to New york and to shut down the UNDP Regional Centre.
France urges Sri Lanka to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of UN staff and normal working conditions."
On 25 April 2011, the Secretary-General released the report of the Panel of Experts on the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law during the last phases of the conflict in Sri Lanka (September 2008 to May 2009). On this occasion, the Secretary-General underlined that justice and the rejection of impunity should contribute to peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. He called for the resumption of dialogue with the Sri Lankan authorities based on the report’s recommendations, since the responsibility for achieving truth, justice and reparations for victims lies principally with the Sri Lankan authorities.
On 28 April 2011, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs’ Spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The report of the Panel of Experts tasked by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties in the conflict has been released.
In April 2009, France called for the establishment of an impartial international commission of inquiry in order to shed light on these allegations of violations. We then actively supported the appointment by the UN Secretary-General of this Panel of Experts.
In 2010, the Sri Lankan authorities established a “Commission on lessons learned from the war and reconciliation” in order to facilitate national reconciliation. The work of this Commission must complement that of the experts mandated by the UN Secretary-General.
We urge the Sri Lankan authorities to collaborate in a constructive manner with the international community.
The fight against impunity is a key factor with respect to conducting a genuine policy of national reconciliation, whatever the country. We encourage the Sri Lankan authorities to fulfill their commitments in these two areas.”
On 1st July 2011, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs’ Spokesperson issued the following statement:
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reaffirmed on Thursday, June 30, “the high level of expectations expressed by the Member States that Sri Lanka should seriously inquire” into these persistent allegations of extrajudicial executions by both parties during the final phase of the war against the LTTE. She underlined that, if that should not be the case then the international community could take action.
France fully supports the comments made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
France has, on several occasions, called for credible and impartial investigations into the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that may have been committed by all parties to the conflict.
The report published in April by the UN panel of experts concluded that these violations appear plausible.
A national investigation process is under way in Sri Lanka, but this has, up until now, not been entirely satisfactory. We expect the Sri Lankan authorities to take the conclusions of the panel’s report into consideration and to fully cooperate with the United Nations in its fight against impunity.
In the absence of any tangible progress on these issues, and given the seriousness of the reported facts, the implementation of an international inquiry mechanism, as recommended by the report, should be considered.
13 May 2009 - Sri Lanka, Somalia, Gaza - Stakeout by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
11 May 2009 - Sri Lanka - Joint stakeout by the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and Austria
30 April 2009 - Sri Lanka : Security council informal interactive debate - Remarks to the press by Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
22 April 2009 : Comments to the press by H.E. Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, in the margin of the interactive discussion of the Security Council on Sri Lanka
25 April 2011 - UN Panel of Experts Report on Sri Lanka
2 June 2010 - Sri Lanka - Statement by the Spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (In French)
13 May 2009 - Sri Lanka - Security Council Press Statement