- Sri Lanka produces a 400-page response to U.N. allegations that it committed war crimes
- The U.N. report says the government used "widespread shelling" that killed many civilians
- Sri Lanka's response will be presented to Parliament, though the president did not say when
- The country's civil war ended in May 2009 after the government declared victory
Sri Lanka's response to a scathing United Nations report alleging war crimes and human rights violations has reached the president's desk.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa received the 400-page document on Sunday night. The response, compiled by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, will be presented to Parliament, though Rajapaksa did not say when.
At their president's urging, Sri Lankans took to the streets in May to rail against the U.N. report, which cites "credible allegations" that crimes were committed by both sides during the final stages of the country's civil war.
A three-member U.N. panel recommended that Sri Lanka immediately conduct an investigation into the alleged violations of international law.
Human rights groups have already alleged both government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels violated humanitarian laws and that thousands of civilians were killed during the war, which ended in May 2009 after the government declared victory. The rebels had fought a 26-year bloody separatist war that left thousands dead and large numbers of others internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
The U.N. report concluded there were "credible allegations, which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international humanitarian rights law was committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (rebels), some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."
In the war's final stage, which lasted from September 2008 to May 2009, the Sri Lankan army advanced into an area of northern Sri Lanka known as the Vanni, where about 330,000 people were trapped by fighting.
The report said the government used "large-scale and widespread shelling" that left many civilians dead.
Some of the shelling happened in no-fire zones where the government had encouraged civilians to congregate, the report said. Government forces also shelled a U.N. hub and food distribution lines and fired near International Committee of the Red Cross ships that were picking up the wounded, the report said.
The government also shelled hospitals on the front lines, some of them repeatedly, the report said.
"Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling," the report said.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban hopes the U.N. report "will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lankan government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace."