US urges Sri Lanka to investigate and prosecute armed conflict rights violations

[JURIST] Sri Lanka must investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes during the last months of the internal armed civil conflict [JURIST report] by both government and rebel forces and prosecute those responsible, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] urged [transcript] Thursday. The statement from DOS spokesperson Ian Kelly came the same day the DOS released a report [text, PDF] on incidents that took place during those final months. The report, mandated by the Congressional Committees on Appropriations, documents more than 160 credible reports of incidents between January and May 2009, addressing subjects including children in armed conflict, enforced disappearances, harm to civilians by both the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST archive] forces, and the critical humanitarian conditions in Internal Displaced Persons and No Fire Zone Camps. The report abstains from legal conclusions or determinations of accuracy. The government of Sri Lanka rejected [statement] the findings of the report, characterizing it as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence," and an effort "to bring the Government of Sri Lanka into disrepute, through fabricated allegations and concocted stories." Also on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution [text; press release] calling for Sri Lanka to improve the conditions [Al Jazeera report] of more than 250,000 Tamil civilians held in camps, "asking that their return be organized and that humanitarian organisations be given free access to the camps."

Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the Sri Lankan government to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes during the civil war against the rebel LTTE forces, and to make quicker progress in shutting down camps and achieving political reconciliation among the country's warring ethnic factions. The Sri Lankan government finished its internal investigation of human rights violations in June while refusing to permit [JURIST reports] an external probe to conduct a full investigation. Concern in the international community continues over potential human rights violations in the trial of LTTE members and for Tamil civilians in camps. In May, as the country's decades-long civil war was coming to an end, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa denied [JURIST report] humanitarian groups full access to refugee camps, saying the camps still needed to be screened for rebel fighters.

 

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