Sri Lanka's government and the Tamil Tigers could face prosecution for committing war crimes in their long-running war that appears to be ending, the New York Times said on Thursday.
"Sri Lanka's leaders and the rebels must be warned that they could face prosecution for war crimes," the daily said in an editorial titled "Sri Lanka's Dirty War".
"Once this fighting ends, the government and the Tamils must be persuaded to pursue a serious political settlement, or this long and brutal war would certainly reignite," it said.
Human rights groups have accused both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Colombo of gross rights abuses.
The Times also urged the international community including India to press Colombo to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and give NGOs access to refugee camps.
"While there are no good guys in this fight, the government must do all that it can to avoid harming civilians in a war zone. You know officials have something to hide when they bar aid groups and journalists from the war zone, as Sri Lanka has done since last year," it said.
Pointing out that Sri Lanka has callously ignored calls for a cease-fire, the editorial noted that the government this week said the army would stop using heavy weapons against the rebels. But watchdog groups say they have reports that fierce shelling still continues.
"American officials say privately that they will try to delay Sri Lanka from getting a desperately needed $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund until all civilians are allowed to leave the war zone and aid workers have full access to refugee camps.
"Other countries should join that effort. The European Union is warning that unless Sri Lanka quickly declares a cease-fire, it will have to rethink its aid and trade. Japan and India should use their even greater economic leverage," the Times said.