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Sri Lanka opposing US plan to interview military commander on rights violations

[JURIST] Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama [official website] objected Monday to plans by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to question military commander General Sarath Fonseka [official profile] about the alleged war crimes committed during the civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST archive]. Fonseka, holding a diplomatic passport and a Green Card, is traveling in the US to visit his daughters in Oklahoma. The Sri Lankan government is concerned that the DHS is seeking testimony from Fonseka against Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa [official profile] on allegations of human rights violations. Bogollagama asserted that any information from Fonseka is privileged and cannot legally be shared with a third party without consent from the Sri Lankan government.

Last month, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on the incidents that took place during the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil conflict by both the government and the LTTE, urging [JURIST report] Sri Lankan officials to investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes and prosecute those responsible. While the government of Sri Lanka rejected [statement] the findings of the DOS report, President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] decided last month to appoint an independent committee [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of human rights violations. In September, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe [official profile] encouraged [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes and to make quicker progress in shutting down camps and achieving political reconciliation among the country's warring ethnic factions. The Sri Lankan government finished an internal investigation of human rights violations in June while refusing to permit [JURIST report] an external probe to conduct a full investigation. In May, as the country's decades-long civil war was coming to an end, Rajapaksa denied [JURIST report] humanitarian groups full access to refugee camps, saying the camps still needed to be screened for rebel fighters.

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