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Britain backs war crimes probe in Sri Lanka: minister

Britain supports an early investigation into whether war crimes have been committed in Sri Lanka, a minister said, pressing Colombo over the shelling of civilians.

world Updated: May 14, 2009 19:16 IST

Britain supports an early investigation into whether war crimes have been committed in Sri Lanka, a minister said on Thursday, pressing Colombo over the shelling of civilians.

“We would support an early investigation into all incidents that may have resulted in civilian casualties ... to determine whether war crimes have been committed,” junior foreign minister Bill Rammell said.

“The UN’s estimate, if it is accurate, of over 6,500 civilian deaths since January is truly shocking and appalling,” he added, in a parliamentary debate on the military standoff on the island nation.

Asked if the Sri Lankan government should be isolated by other countries, he said: “Democratic states are held to a higher standard of responsibility than other organisations.

“I do think that the Sri Lankan government, as we have been repeatedly urging, needs to respond on that issue,” he added.

The Sri Lankan military says that an offensive on Tamil Tiger rebels launched on April 20 has enabled more than 100,000 civilians to flee rebel-held areas.

The Sri Lankan government says it is on the brink of victory, with the Tamil Tigers surrounded in just four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) of northeastern coastal jungle.