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UN rights chief calls for international inquiry into Sri Lanka war crimes

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Monday called for an international investigation [report, DOC] into possible war crimes committed by both sides during the 25-year Sri Lankan civil war that ended in May 2009. Citing an alleged failure of domestic authorities to properly investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes, Pillay reportedly stated [Reuters report] that an independent international inquiry is necessary to bring perpetrators to justice. While expressing concern over the lack of investigation into crimes committed during the conflict, Pillay also brought attention to crimes that have perpetuated past the end of the conflict including violence against women and religious minorities. Sri Lankan authorities have rejected [Al Jazeera report] the calls for international inquiry, defending their country's own processes. President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a set of comments to Pillay's report, reportedly referring to the recommendations for inquiry as, "arbitrary, intrusive and of a political nature." This report comes in advance of a UN Human Rights Council debate in March, where the US is expected to introduce resolutions against Sri Lanka to put pressure on the government to comply with any investigation attempts.

An advance copy of the report was sent [JURIST report] to the Sri Lankan government on February 16 without any immediate response. This came just three days after the United National Party, Sri Lanka's main opposition group issued [JURIST report] a statement demanding a domestic investigation into war crimes perpetrated on both sides of the conflict. On February 5 an independent report by the Australian legal advocacy group Public Interest Advocacy Center was released [JURIST report] detailing reports of bombing civilian targets, extrajudicial executions, denial of humanitarian aid, and sexual violence. The report will be incorporated into the upcoming presentation before the Human Rights Council. After concluding a fact-finding mission to the country the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka on January 13 issued a statement calling [JURIST report] on the government to investigate and prosecute reports of human rights abuses during and since the conflict. Pillay's report comes [JURIST report] as a result of her August 2013 trip to the country to ascertain whether the government had complied with international human rights standards in its investigations.

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