The Secretary-General's report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the final months of the Sri Lankan government's campaign to annihilate the Tamil Tigers, in 2009, was issued earlier this week. In a sense, this is the Sri Lankan counterpart to the 'Goldstone Report' on the Gaza conflict that took place a few months earlier.
The report documents war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lankan government. It also condemns war crimes perpetrated by the Tamil Tigers. In addition to the evidence of violations, much of which was already well-known and set out in detail in NGO materials, the report provides an additional chapter in the growing literature on the relationship between crimes against humanity and war crimes or, put another way, between human rights law and the law or armed conflict.
Recommendations call for the Secretary-General to consider proposing a new mechanism to deal with these accusations. Surprisingly, there is no explicit call for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Its conclusions might have called upon the Security Council to consider referring the situation to the Court, as it has done recently with Libya and previously with Sudan.
Perhaps the explanation lies in the authority for the Secretary-General's report, which was not authorized by either the Human Rights Council or the Security Council, as is normally the case. The Secretary-General acted on his own in asking for an 'advisory' report. Now, to get more muscle into the recommendations, he must go back to one of the Council's and get them to move on this.
The report itself says that the Human Rights Council 'should be invited to reconsider' the resolution it adopted in May 2009 'in light of this report'. The resolution was a tame, mealy-mouthed effort that did not adequately address the brutal attacks on civilians committed by the Sri Lankan government as part of the final stages of its struggle with the Tamil Tigers.