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Sri Lanka high court rules president's second term to begin in November

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka ruled Tuesday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] will begin his second term in office on November 19, 2010. Rajapaksa won re-election [NYT report] last week with an 18-point victory over his opponent, retired general Sarath Foneska. The election was held two years before the scheduled end to Rajapaksa's first term in office, creating the question of when the president's second term should begin. Rajapaksa called for the election to be moved up in order to capitalize on the victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in May, ending a 25-year conflict. Supporters of the president had argued that his second term in office should begin on November 19, 2011, at the conclusion of his first six-year term, and that the results of the most recent election did not affect the length of the original term. The Supreme Court, however, concluded [Hindu report] that the second term must begin within a reasonable amount of time in order to reflect the will of the voters. Rajapaksa is expected to meet with advisers [Xinhua report] over the next few days in order to dissolve the present parliament and order new parliamentary elections.

During his second term in office, Rajapaksa will have to continue addressing allegations of human rights violations that have been leveled against the Sri Lankan government. Last month, a UN rights expert urged Sri Lanka [JURIST report] to conduct a war crimes probe after a video showing the execution of members of LTTE by members of the Sri Lankan military was authenticated. In October, the US State Department [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 report, Rajapaksa decided in October to appoint an independent committee [JURIST report] to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

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