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UN rights chief visits Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes allegations

At the beginning of a week-long visit to Sri Lanka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website; JURIST news archive] pledged to raise concerns with the government's human rights record, particularly with regard to alleged war crimes against ethnic Tamils. Sri Lanka's government fought a brutal 26-year civil war [JURIST backgrounder] with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder] that ended in 2009. In an upcoming meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website], Pillay vowed to address [AFP report] whether Sri Lanka has complied with international human rights standards. Sri Lanka has not investigated allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed during the final months of the civil war.

The UN and other international human rights groups have urged Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes committed during its civil war with the LTTE. In May Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said that there has been no progress [JURIST report] regarding respect for basic rights and liberties in the four years since the end of the country's civil war. In March the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution [JURIST report] to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. In February Sri Lankan authorities were accused of using rape [JURIST report] as a method of interrogating members or supporters of the LTTE. Earlier that same month the UN criticized Sri Lanka for failing to investigate war crimes, and HRW pushed [JURIST reports] for an independent investigation of rights abuses.

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