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Sri Lanka opposition party demands domestic war crimes investigation

The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, The United National Party (UNP) [official website] released a statement Thursday demanding the Sri Lankan government conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) [Time backgrounder] have both been accused [AP report] of war crimes and human rights violations, primarily in the final months of the conflict. According to the AP, the government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians, blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounting civilians caught up in fighting. The Tamil rebels have been accused of using civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to escape their hold and recruiting child soldiers. According to a November 2012 UN report [text; PDF] an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict.

The UNP's demands come amid mounting pressure on the Sri Lankan government from human rights groups and the international community [NYT report] to investigate and prosecute abuses during the conflict. Last week The Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC) [advocacy website], an Australian nonprofit legal advocacy group, released a report [JURIST report] detailing possible war crimes and crimes against humanity during the final months of the civil war. The reports findings will be incorporated into an upcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Council [official website] sponsored by the US. Last month US ambassador Stephen Rapp [official profile] called on [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to investigate rights abuses by security forces during the civil war. In November UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded [JURIST report] that the Sri Lankan government conduct its own investigation into war crime allegations. In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on [JURIST report] Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record.

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