SL Army open to probe war crimes allegations - report

SL Army open to probe war crimes allegations - report

March 19, 2019   09:48 am

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Sri Lanka is open to any investigation into alleged human rights violations in northeastern Sri Lanka during the civil war, the country’s top army brass has said. 

The Sri Lankan army and the Jaffna-based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are accused of war crimes during the closing stages of the military conflict in 2009 when Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed, ending years of secessionist insurgency in northern Sri Lanka where ethnic Tamils dominate the area. 

Denying any wrongdoing, Sri Lankan Army chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake said Sunday that his army “is ready for any kind of investigation to defend its soldiers”, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. 

“We have no fear to face any investigation because we have not done any crimes,” PTI quoted Senanayake as saying in the southern Sri Lankan town of Weligama on Sunday. 

The South Asian country has been accused of killing 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war, an allegation that the then government of the country strongly denied. 

Senanayake said that in any war there will be civilian casualties.

“That is the hard truth. No war can be done without it. This does not mean we have done that during the war. 

“Do not dig into the past, look at the positive things we have done over the last 10 years.” 

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has repeatedly sought accountability of Sri Lankan authorities since 2012 over mass allegations of rights violations. 

In 2014, the UNHRC resolution demanded an international investigation into the alleged war crimes blamed on both sides. 

“No need for an international investigation. Our judiciary is capable of doing it,” Senanayake retorted. 

On March 13, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor published its 43rd annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 which noted that while the Sri Lankan constitution and law prohibit practices of torture and other degrading treatment, “authorities reportedly continued to employ them”. 

At least 26,000 Sri Lankan army soldiers lost their lives and another 37,000 wounded during the civil war that erupted in 1983.

The war ended in 2009 at an estimated cost of more than 100,000 lives. 

The Tamil Tiger rebels also lost heavily and the entire guerrilla leadership was wiped out in the military onslaught. 

A UN panel has said around 40,000 mainly Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the country’s separatist war.

More than 100,000 people in northern Sri Lanka fled to Tamil Nadu State in India due to the conflict.

-Agencies

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