BFF-52 Sri Lanka president relents on war crimes probe

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SRILANKA-UN-RIGHTS-WARCRIMES-JUSTICE

Sri Lanka president relents on war crimes probe

COLOMBO, March 13, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president backed down
Wednesday from a refusal to ask the UN rights body for more time to probe war
crimes during the island nation’s brutal civil conflict.

Sri Lankan government troops were accused of killing at least 40,000
ethnic Tamil civilians in the final months of the island’s 37-year guerrilla
war that ended in May 2009.

A 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution gave Sri Lanka 18 months to
establish a credible investigation. Colombo secured a two-year extension in
2017 that expires this month.

Maithripala Sirisena said last week that he did not want another
extension, saying that he did not want to “dig up the past and re-open old
wounds.”

This triggered a rift with the government led by Sirisena’s rival Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which said it would send a separate delegation
to a meeting of the UN rights body in Geneva next week.

Legislator Mahinda Samarasinghe, a spokesman for Sirisena, said the
president has now changed his mind.

“I told the President that we can’t have two delegations and that was
accepted,” Samarasinghe said. “A representative of the president will go to
Geneva, but as a member of a delegation headed by the Foreign Minister.”

Top UN diplomats had expressed concern over “worryingly slow” progress
by Colombo. Over 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s 37-year-old Tamil
separatist war.

The UN has acknowledged that Colombo made some positive advances on
constitutional and legal reforms, limited land restitution and symbolic
gestures towards reconciliation.

But it has also cautioned that the measures taken under Sirisena were
inadequate, lacked coordination and a sense of urgency.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1920HRS