[JURIST] The government of Sri Lanka said Thursday that it may take up to five years to prosecute people accused of war crimes during the 26-year civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounder; faction website]. The government released a timetable [text] on Thursday detailing how it plans to deal with people accused of committing atrocities during the civil war. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile; JURIST news archive] stated that the government would follow recommendations [Reuters report] by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) [official website] to investigate war crimes. Critics of the government have lashed out at the administration’s plan, saying that it is a ploy to avoid international scrutiny and that the plan fails to ensure that government troops who committed war crimes are brought to justice. Sri Lanka’s civil war lasted from 1983 until 2009.
The Sri Lankan government has faced various allegations of human rights violations and war crimes by civil rights organizations and the UN since the end of its civil war. Earlier in July, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Sri Lanka to stop arresting journalists who criticized the government [JURIST report]. In May, Rajapaksa pardoned [JURIST report] former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. In November the Sri Lankan government was subjected to criticism for its failure to investigate [JURIST report] issues of torture for past human rights violations and to enforce laws against continued torture and ill-treatment by government officials against civilians. In April 2011 a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country’s war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In June 2010 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called for an international inquiry [JURIST report] into the conduct of the Sri Lankan government during its civil war.