Australia urged to investigate Sri Lanka war crimes

[JURIST] A group of rights organizations and lawmakers on Monday called for Australia to investigate [press release, PDF] a top ranking official in the Sri Lankan High Commission [official website] in Canberra for war crimes violations allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan Navy during clashes with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in 2009. The call to investigate comes after the Australian International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) [official website] delivered a brief [The Age report] to the Australian Federal Police [official website] that they claim contains credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The high commissioner, Thisara Samarasinghe [official profile], is a former Sri Lankan navy admiral and was a commander during the last months of the war when naval ships allegedly fired on civilians. Samarasinghe claims that his actions during the war were not in violation of the rules of conflict. Calls for investigation come days before Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile] is scheduled to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) [official website], a biannual meeting of the prime ministers and presidents of its member countries. The meeting will take place in Perth, Australia, where leaders are set to discuss both local and global issues and to develop related policies and initiatives.

Early this month, the Sri Lankan Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe [official profile], announced that the Cabinet of Ministers has adopted the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights [JURIST report] after coming under international criticism for allegations of human rights violations. The five-year plan addresses eight areas [Daily Mirror report]: civil and political rights, economic, social, and cultural rights, children's rights, labor and migrant worker rights, and the prevention of torture. Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] sent a report [JURIST report] to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians during the 2009 civil war. In April, a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country's war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In December, the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs [official website] announced that the UN panel would be allowed to visit [JURIST report] the island to look into alleged war crimes. The decision signaled a reversal after months of strong opposition [JURIST report] from the Sri Lankan government, which described the UN panel as an infringement of Sri Lanka's sovereignty.

 

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