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India asks Sri Lanka to probe rights

It's a first since the Sri Lankan civil war ended exactly two years ago. New Delhi on Tuesday asked Colombo to probe allegations of human rights violations that have continued to surface since government troops militarily wiped out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, 2009. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: May 19, 2011 00:15 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

It's a first since the Sri Lankan civil war ended exactly two years ago. New Delhi on Tuesday asked Colombo to probe allegations of human rights violations that have continued to surface since government troops militarily wiped out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, 2009.

The issue of human rights violations came up during Lankan foreign minister GL Peiris's three-day visit to New Delhi to discuss, among bilateral issues, the UN panel's report which alleged that tens of thousands of civilians were killed during the last phase of the civil war.

An Indo-Lanka joint statement released on Tuesday urged Colombo to withdraw emergency regulations that give sweeping powers to the government.

The statement also asked Sri Lanka to resettle the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and bring in "genuine" reconciliation among the ethnic groups.

While the joint statement was carefully worded not to mention the damning UN report or the wide array of allegations in it, India bringing up the issue of rights violations could be interpreted as an unspoken endorsement of it.

It is widely believed in Colombo's diplomatic circles and commentators that New Delhi was well aware of the violence unleashed against Tamil civilians by advancing government troops and retreating rebels.

"The External Affairs Minister of India urged the expeditious implementation of measures by the Government of Sri Lanka, to ensure resettlement and genuine reconciliation, including early return of IDPs to their respective homes, early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas and redress of humanitarian concerns of affected families," the joint statement said.

Diplomats here were not willing to comment on the statement's specifics but said it was indeed the first occasion that India had, at least officially, brought up the twin issues of investigating rights violations and withdrawing emergency laws.

Critics have repeatedly questioned the need to govern the country under emergency regulations, considered draconian by many, even after two years of the end of the war.

The issue of violence against fishermen was also discussed. "The Indian side conveyed that the incidents of continued violence against Indian fishermen in the vicinity of Sri Lanka were of serious concern," the statement said.

During his visit, Peiris called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and met with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign minister SM Krishna among others.