Sri Lanka sets September date for war crimes probe
Sri Lanka’s new government yesterday said an investigation into allegations of war crimes would begin by September, amid international pressure to account for atrocities committed during the island’s decades-long separatist conflict.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the local inquiry into allegations of abuses in the final stages of the war would start by the next UN Human Rights Council session, which meets in Geneva in September.
“We are working on a timeline and by September we will have in place a credible domestic mechanism with foreign technical expertise,” Samaraweera told reporters in Colombo.
The minister did not give details of the new probe, but official sources said it would draw support from UN and other international experts.
The announcement comes just days after US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the government to ensure accountability for war-time atrocities and work towards ethnic reconciliation, during a visit to the island.
Kerry echoed longstanding demands of ethnic minority Tamils to investigate cases of thousands who went missing or were killed towards the end of the conflict, which claimed some 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
At the ballot box in January, President Maithripala Sirisena unseated long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse who drew international condemnation over his refusal to investigate alleged military abuses.
Rajapakse insisted that security forces did not kill a single civilian while fighting Tamil Tigers who were known for their trade mark suicide bombings.
The UN, backed by the US, has been investigating possible war crimes during the conflict for more than a year.
In February however, the UN postponed its report at Colombo’s request to allow more time for Sri Lanka to complete its own investigation, AFP reports.
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This might be a bit too late; the OISL Report is due in UNHRC’s sessions in Sept and the Commissioner has stated that there will be no further postponement.
The diaspora will continue its intense lobbying to proceed with the tabling of the OISL Report. The Conservative Government in the UK which had specific reference to pursuing justice for Tamils in Sri Lanka will entice the EU and US to proceed with OISL and table the full report.
The Yahapalanaya Government will have a huge issue in its hands. With OISL poised to name 43 persons for prosecution, the opinion of the domestic bidy politic will become hardened; it will also create an anti-Tamil, anti-TNA backlash. The international community will demand action on the OISL Report.
The “we will conduct an effective and credible in ternal investigation …..” approach cannot survive international scrutiny. The SL born, UK based legal bigwig who was enrolled by the previous Government in its last days, has published his opinion in high flowing legalese. It has not made any impact.
The logical thing to do appears to be placement of the ex-President in a political leadership role (eg: PM) so that he and his followers would enjoy immunity. The country, of course, would be an international pariah state. The constitution should be implemented fully and treacherous elements who profess federalism or separation should be weeded out of the system. With the TNA gone, the Tamil population will drift to moderates such as Mano Ganesan and Thondaman. These leaders are amenable and reasonable.
We are between a rock and a hard place; hope sanity prevails.