Sri Lanka trying to deflect probe into war crimes: HRW

Sri Lanka has announced a commission that will provide accountability for laws-of-war violations during the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers.

New York: Sri Lanka`s suggestion that a newly announced commission will provide accountability for laws-of-war violations during the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers is another attempt to deflect an independent international probe, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.

Human Rights Watch urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take steps to ensure accountability through an independent international investigation into the alleged laws-of-war violations.

The announcement of a commission on "lessons learnt and reconciliation" came after a months-long campaign by Colombo to prevent Ban from setting up a panel of experts to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka.

In May 2009, after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was crushed, President Mahinda Rajapaksa signed a joint communiqué with Ban promising that "the government will take measures to address allegations related to violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law". But no substantive steps have been taken.

"Every time the international community raises the issue of accountability, Sri Lanka establishes a commission that takes a long time to achieve nothing," said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Ban should put an end to this game of smoke and mirrors and begin a process that would ensure justice for all the victims of Sri Lanka`s war," Adams said.

The government has yet to publish the findings from a committee established in November 2009 to examine allegations of laws-of-war violations despite an April 2010 deadline.

When the committee was announced, Human Rights Watch warned that it was just a smokescreen to avoid accountability.

According to conservative UN estimates, 7,000 civilians were killed and more than 13,000 injured from January to May 2009. Other estimates suggest that as many as 20,000 were killed.

Government officials, including the president, have repeatedly insisted that no violations by government forces took place.

On Thursday, the Sri Lankan government announced it will establish a commission to report on the lessons learned from the conflict and reconciliation efforts.

According to the government statement, the committee will consist of seven Sri Lankans, located in Sri Lanka and abroad, but will have no international involvement.


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