United Nations 'failed to protect' Sri Lankan civilians during final bloody stages of civil war

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 14, 2012 06:00 hrs

The United Nations failed to protect civilians in the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war, a leaked draft of a highly critical internal UN report has revealed.

"Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the UN," it concluded.

According to the report, the government and Tamil rebels have been accused of war crimes in the brutal conflict, which ended in May 2009.

According to the BBC, the 26-year war left at least 100,000 people dead.

Former senior UN official Charles Petrie, who headed the internal review panel, said that the 'penultimate' draft 'very much reflects the findings of the panel'.

The UN's investigation into its own conduct during the last months of the conflict said that the organisation should in future 'be able to meet a much higher standard in fulfilling its protection and humanitarian responsibilities', the report said.

The report does highlight the positive role played by some UN staff on the ground and the secretary general, but it points to a 'systemic failure', the report added.

Benjamin Dix, who was part of the UN team that left, said that he disagreed with the pullout.

"I believe we should have gone further north, not evacuate south, and basically abandon the civilian population with no protection or witness," Dix said.

"As a humanitarian worker, questions were running through my mind 'what is this all about? Isn't this what we signed up to do?'" he added.

According to the report, hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians remained in the war zone, exploited by both sides: forcibly recruited by Tamil Tigers or used as human shields; or under indiscriminate government fire. (ANI)

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