[JURIST] Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe [official profile] announced Monday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] has decided to appoint an independent committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations in that nation. "Incidents During the Recent Conflicts in Sri Lanka" [text], a US Department of State (DOS) [official website] report presented to Congress, recounts the alleged conduct of both the Sri Lankan government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which may constitute violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), crimes against humanity, and harms against civilians. The report focuses on January through May 2009, a period in which fighting intensified before Sri Lankan government forces put down the LTTE forces. Samarasinghe stated [official press release]:
The report does not reach legal conclusions as to whether the incidents described herein actually constitute violations of IHL, crimes against humanity or other violations of international law. Nor does it reach conclusions concerning whether the alleged incidents detailed herein actually occurred.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official website] expressed confidence that Sri Lankas legal system is capable of handling any ensuing complaints.
On Thursday, the DOS urged Sri Lankan officials to investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes connected with the last months of the internal armed civil conflict [JURIST reports] by both the government and rebel forces, and to prosecute those responsible. Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pasco [official profile] encouraged [JURIST report] the Sri Lankan government to conduct an independent inquiry, and to increase its pace in shutting down camps and achieving political reconciliation among the country's warring ethnic factions. The Sri Lankan government finished its internal investigation in June and refused to permit [JURIST report] an external probe to conduct a full investigation. Human rights advocates remain concerned about both potential human rights violations in the LTTE members' trials and Tamil civilians in camps. In May, as the country's decades-long civil war was coming to an end, Rajapaksa denied [JURIST report] humanitarian groups full access to refugee camps, saying that they still needed to be screened for rebel fighters.