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SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka rejects international war crimes probe

Economy minister and president's brother says Colombo is "not going to allow" international inquiry into war crimes during ethnic conflict

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 6:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 6:10pm
 

A top Sri Lankan minister rejected pressure on Saturday for an international probe into alleged war crimes at the end of the country’s ethnic conflict, saying the government would “definitely” not allow one.

“Why should we have an international inquiry? We will object to it ... Definitely, we are not going to allow it,” Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, told reporters.

His comments came after British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would push for an international investigation through the UN human rights council unless the government acts by March to credibly address claims of abuses at the end of the war.

The Rajapaksa regime is carrying out its own more limited investigation but has consistently denied any civilians were killed in the last stages of the war when government troops routed Tamil Tiger rebels in their last stronghold.

The UN and rights groups however have said as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the onslaught.

“It is not new, it is not the first time they are saying it,” Basil Rajapaksa said of the pressure for an international inquiry.

Asked about the March deadline for the Sri Lankans to complete their own inquiry, the minister rejected any talk of a timetable being imposed from outside.

“They can’t give dates. It is not fair. Even Cameron has said we need time. Even in Northern Ireland it took a lot of time,” he said.

Cameron infuriated the government in Colombo by travelling up to the war-torn northern Jaffna region on Friday to meet local Tamils, only hours after a Commonwealth summit began in the capital.

The prime minister said he was moved by the “harrowing” testimony of survivors, many of whom lost loved ones or have still not been able to return to their homes.

“We understand some of the things he said were aimed at his home constituency. He was addressing the journalists who travelled with him,” said Rajapaksa, thanking Cameron for attending the summit.

The prime ministers of Canada, India and Mauritius all stayed away from Colombo over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

 

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