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Pressure grows on Sri Lanka over war crimes claims
GENEVA — Human rights groups have called for renewed international pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of serious crimes during its war with the Tamil Tigers.
The groups say a lack of accountability is fostering a sense of impunity among security forces who continue to carry out abuses under the guise of anti-terror operations nearly three years after end of the war.
In a report released in Geneva on Tuesday, Amnesty International said that dozens of people have been abducted and tortured by security forces since 2009, and hundreds are being held in illegal detention without contact to the outside world.
Sri Lanka’s 26-year war ended in 2009, after government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels.
A U.N. panel report has concluded that there are credible allegations that both the government and the defeated rebels committed serious abuses that could amount to war crimes, especially during the last months of the conflict when thousands of civilians were killed.
The Amnesty report was released as the U.N.’s Human Rights Council prepares to vote next week on a U.S.-backed draft resolution calling for accountability in Sri Lanka.
It also comes ahead of the screening Wednesday of a documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 television, which alleges that several war crimes suspects are now in senior government posts.
A previous investigation by Channel 4 based on gruesome footage appearing to show summary executions and other abuses provoked a furious response from the Sri Lankan government two years ago.
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan government this week dismissed the Amnesty report and the Channel 4 documentary as influenced by Tamil Tiger sympathizers, and called the draft U.N. resolution an “interference in the affairs of our country.”
“If one is genuinely interested in Sri Lanka, it’s important to understand the ground reality and to give time and space for reconciliation,” the spokesman, Bandula Jayasekara, said in an email to the Associated Press.
“No one else will understand the plight of Sri Lanka than our leaders.”
But rights activists say Sri Lanka’s homegrown efforts at accountability so far have fallen far short of international standards.
They also argue that the proposed U.N. resolution would be a chance for the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to redeem itself for failing to condemn Sri Lanka on previous occasions when it examined reports of atrocities committed by government and Tamil Tiger forces.
“For years, Sri Lanka has met evidence of war crimes committed in the final months of the conflict in 2009 with blanket denials and bluster,” said Juliette de Rivero, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch.
“This draft resolution essentially is the international community saying that Sri Lanka has done too little, too late.”
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