Sri Lanka Tamil leaders call for war crimes probe

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil leaders called yesterday for an international war crimes inquiry into events during the final stages of the country's civil war, criticising a commission report that cleared government forces of deliberately targeting civilians.

Lawmakers in the Tamil National Alliance, the main political party representing the ethnic minority, said the report by the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was a "serious assault" on the dignity of war victims who testified before it and damaged the chances of genuine reconciliation between the country's embittered ethnic groups.

"By mischaracterising the crimes committed during the last days of the war as isolated acts of individual perpetrators, the LLRC has effectively granted immunity to civilian and military leaders responsible for devising the policies that led directly to the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity," they said in a statement.

The commission said last week that government forces did not target civilians, but acknowledged that a few isolated violations by individual soldiers needed to be investigated further. It accused the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels of routinely violating international humanitarian law.

Earlier this year, a panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it found credible allegations of serious abuses by both sides and called for an international inquiry.

Sri Lanka's government appointed the commission last year amid intense pressure from international human rights groups and Western governments to establish accountability for alleged war abuses. The government is now expected to argue that an international inquiry is unnecessary.

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