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Rights group urges UN investigation into alleged Sri Lanka war crimes

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday criticized Sri Lanka's investigation into allegations of war crimes committed during its 26-year civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] and urged the UN to conduct an independent investigation [report, PDF] to ensure justice for the victims and their families. The report argues that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] in 2010 to address allegations of human rights violations during the last months of the war, is ineffective in nearly every way and does not meet international standards on national commissions of inquiry. Instead, AI contends that the LLRC exists merely to "deflect international pressure and silence internal critics." According the the report, the commission has failed to investigate witness testimony that would help to establish the identities of perpetrators as well as failed to protect the witnesses from threats and retaliation. In addition to addressing these shortcomings, AI desires an independent investigation for two other reasons, which it deems crucial:

(1) to protect the global principle of accountability for international crimes, and prevent the establishment of a negative precedent for other states that may emulate Sri Lanka's attempt to flout international law so egregiously; and (2) to help the process of reconciliation inside Sri Lanka through findings issued by a neutral outside body free of perceptions of bias, that can establish the truth and provide justice for the crimes committed by all sides to the conflict, including the LTTE, government forces and their affiliates.
Amnesty International's Asia Pacific Director warned that the international community "must not be deceived into viewing the LLRC as a credible replacement for an international inquiry" and that this is the only way the "process of post-conflict reconciliation [can] begin to move forward."

AI has not been the only organization to criticize the conduct of the Sri Lankan government in handling affairs related to the war. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] a report released by the Sri Lankan government for not taking responsibility for alleged violations of the laws of war. The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense [official website] released its report entitled, "Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis", where for the first time it admitted that the military caused civilian deaths near the end of the civil war. The report detailed numerous alleged abuses of LTTE against civilians including using them as human shields. Sri Lanka says it took reasonable steps to avoid civilian casualties. Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa [official profile], in releasing the report said: "The false claims and allegations made by Tamil Diaspora together with the LTTE international network will be laid to rest with the release of the factual analysis reports." Still, HRW criticized the report for its lack of discussion over the military's responsibility for alleged war crimes such as "frequent indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas" and summary executions of LTTE fighters. Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said: "The Sri Lankan government is finally admitting that its forces caused civilians losses during the conflict's final months, but unconvincingly claims no responsibility. This is just the latest and glossiest effort to whitewash mounting evidence of government atrocities during the fighting."

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