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Top Sri Lanka military official departs US unquestioned on rights abuse allegations

[JURIST] Sri Lanka's Chief of Defense Staff General Sarath Fonseka [official profile] returned home [press release] Thursday without being questioned by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] about alleged war crimes. Fonseka, a US permanent resident with a diplomatic passport and a Green Card, had traveled to the US to visit his daughters in Oklahoma. The Sri Lankan government was concerned that the DHS was seeking testimony from Fonseka against Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa [official profile] on allegations of human rights violations. Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry released a statement saying:

[Fonseka] was not subjected to any questioning prior to his departure by the United States Department of Homeland Security or any other agency of the US Government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs appreciates the receptive and constructive attitude adopted by the US authorities, which in turn allowed General Fonseka to leave the United States without any damage to the national interest of Sri Lanka and to the dignity of his Office.

Earlier this week, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama [official website] objected [JURIST report] to the plans and asserted that any information from Fonseka is privileged and cannot legally be shared with a third party without consent from the Sri Lankan government.

The allegations of human rights violations originate from incidents that took place during the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war by both the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST archive]. Last month, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on the conflict 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.

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