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Sri Lanka seeks UN reprieve over war crimes probe

  • Published at 12:42 pm September 15th, 2018
A poster thanking nations which supported Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council where a US-led resolution calling for a war crimes probe against the island was adopted, is pictured in Colombo on March 30, 2014 AFP

At least 100,000 people were killed during the separatist war between government forces and rebels from the Tamil Tigers group, with atrocities recorded by both sides

Sri Lanka's president said on Friday that he wants the United Nations to drop its demand for state accountability over the alleged killing of some 40,000 Tamil civilians by government forces during a brutal civil war.

Maithripala Sirisena told local editors in Colombo that he will ask the UN General Assembly to allow Sri Lanka to "amicably resolve" war crime allegations against the majority Sinhalese government forces who fought a 37-year conflict against Tamil separatists.

Sirisena's predecessor, Mahinda Rajapakse, crushed the Tamil rebels in a no-holds-barred military campaign that ended in May 2009. A 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution demanded Sri Lanka establish an independent war crimes investigation.

"I will also make a written request to the Human Rights Council to settle the allegations against our troops," Sirisena said. "I want to tell them to remove these charges. We can amicably resolve this issue."

The president said he expected "concessions" in implementing the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution.

While Sirisena has pledged to ensure accountability for wartime atrocities, subjecting army to scrutiny in the majority-Sinhalese country has proved controversial.

Rajapakse, who is Sinhalese, had resisted international calls for an independent probe. He has denied troops killed any civilians during the final stages of the war.

Sirisena had acknowledged there may have been excesses and had promised to set up an accountability mechanism. He is yet to deliver on the pledge however.

Last year, Sirisena sought and received a two-year extension of a deadline to implement the 2015 resolution. The new deadline expires in March next year, but it is not clear what action the rights body could take if Sri Lanka fails to comply.

At least 100,000 people were killed during the separatist war between government forces and rebels from the Tamil Tigers group, with atrocities recorded by both sides.

Although there has been no investigation of the military, Sirisena has set up an Office of Missing Persons to trace more than 20,000 people still missing.

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