The fighting between the military and the Tamil Tigers continued, causing the civilians to flee from the Safe Zone to a narrow strip of land between Nanthi Kadal lagoon and the Indian Ocean.

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In 2002 the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created by the Rome Statute to prosecute individuals for serious crimes, such as war crimes. Therefore, it is only possible for the ICC to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Sri Lanka if the UN Security Council was to refer Sri Lanka to the ICC, which is unlikely.

However, individual countries may investigate and prosecute alleged culprits over whom they have jurisdiction, such as those with dual-nationality.

In March 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Council authorised an international investigation into the alleged war crimes.

War crimes are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, of which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

The resolution, calling upon all parties and groups to renounce the use of force and acts of violence and to pursue a negotiated political solution, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, received wide support from Latin American, African, Western European countries and India. Two detailed reports on Arrest, Detention and Torture in Sri Lanka, and the other on Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Killings were distributed among delegates.

Norway, Canada, Belgium and Australia joined Argentina in moving to support the original resolution in private, while thirteen non-governmental organisations in their joint statement to the commission stated "The situation (in Sri Lanka) is so grave that it warrants exceptional and urgent consideration by this distinguished Commission.

We appeal to the conscience of the distinguished delegates and the governments they represent to ensure that all essential steps are undertaken in terms of international human rights and humanitarian law".

They deplored the use of foreign mercenaries by Sri Lanka.

There are allegations that war crimes were committed by the Sri Lankan military and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) during the Sri Lankan Civil War, particularly during the final months of the Eelam War IV phase in 2009.

The alleged war crimes include attacks on civilians and civilian buildings by both sides; executions of combatants and prisoners by both sides; enforced disappearances by the Sri Lankan military and paramilitary groups backed by them; acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone; and child recruitment by the Tamil Tigers.

By January 2009 the Tamil Tigers and the civilians were trapped in a small piece of land on the north-east coast.