|12-year old son of a Tamil rebel leader|
Picture of Balachandran Prabhakaran, the 12-year old son of a Tamil rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Assassination: Balachandran Prabhakaran, 12, the son of the Tamil Tigers commander, where he was allegedly held in captivity, before he was later found shot dead.
Sri Lankan security forces were responsible for the ''vast majority'' of alleged war crimes during the final months of its bloody civil war, and may have systematically destroyed mass burial sites of civilians in an apparent effort to destroy evidence, a new report has found.
The study examines allegations of the deliberate and indiscriminate shelling of civilians corralled into no-fire zones by the Sri Lankan government. During the artillery attacks, tens of thousands of civilians are believed to have died.
The report finds there is credible evidence of war crimes.
In addition, the report by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre's International Crimes Evidence Project investigates the alleged assassination of surrendering Tamil Tigers figures, including Balachandran Prabhakaran, the 12-year-old son of its commander.
The rape and torture of civilians and the alleged shelling of a hospital and refusal to distribute food and medicines to civilians were also probed, along with the alleged use of civilians as human shields and child soldiers by the rebels.
In all cases, the report finds there is credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity and urges the UN to formally investigate the allegations after two UN resolutions for the Sri Lankan government to address them led to little action.
''Although violations were committed by both sides, the evidentiary material indicates that members of the Sri Lankan security forces perpetrated the vast majority of alleged crimes during the investigation period [September 2008 to May 2009],'' the report said.
Sri Lanka's government, which routed the Tamil Tigers, flatly denies any wrongdoing and is resisting an international investigation likely to be put forward as a resolution by the US to the UN Human Rights Council. Such an investigation could ensnare some of Sri Lanka's most senior government and military officials, and eventually lead to prosecutions in the International Criminal Court.
The report, titled Island of Impunity? and released Wednesday, uses forensic analysis of photographs, satellite imagery, independent military analysts and new eye-witness accounts to probe the litany of well-aired allegations.
In a disturbing new development, it spoke to three different witnesses involved in the registration and burial of dead civilians. One of the witnesses alleges that the Sri Lankan security forces went back to the burial sites after the conflict concluded and systematically destroyed human remains.
''The witness believes that senior [Sri Lankan army and police] knew that the graves were being identified for the purpose of exhumation, and permanent destruction, over a period of more than a year,'' the report said, adding further investigation was needed to confirm the veracity of the claims.
Thousands of civilians were allegedly buried at the sites.
If true, the allegations add to the urgency of calls for a prompt and thorough formal investigation by the UN. The US is expected to recommend that course of action to the UN but whether Australia will co-sponsor or support any resolution remains unclear.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop did not respond to questions before deadline.
The Australian government has close ties with the Sri Lankan government, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott giving two patrol boats to its navy to intercept asylum-seeker vessels and refusing to criticise its human rights record, praising it for bringing ''more freedom and more prosperity'' at a Commonwealth leaders meeting in Colombo in November.
At the same meeting, British Prime Minister David Cameron, demanded an international investigation into the alleged war crimes.
''We accept that the Australian government has a strong policy on asylum seekers,'' Edward Santow, the chief executive of PIAC, said. ''That shouldn't preclude Australia from taking a principled position and support a full investigation into these horrific allegations.