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US sends out a warning to Lanka on war crimes

The United States' remarks over Sri Lanka's culpability in the killings of civilians during the final stages of the civil war might have come late but it's by far the strongest since the conflict ended in May, 2009. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2011 17:52 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The United States' remarks over Sri Lanka's culpability in the killings of civilians during the final stages of the civil war might have come late but it's by far the strongest since the conflict ended in May, 2009.

In its sharpest indictment of Sri Lanka for its alleged involvement in war crimes, the US said on Tuesday that the island nation could face a war crimes tribunal over the deaths of "many thousands of civilians" during the final months of war against the Tamil Tigers.

The warning came from US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, who served as US ambassador in Sri Lanka, as the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was beginning its meeting Geneva.

Blake said Sri Lanka could face a forced international investigation. "It's important to say that if Sri Lanka is not willing to meet international standards regarding these matters, there would be pressure to appoint an international commission to look into these things," Blake told AFP .

Blake said, "the UN has estimated that many thousands of civilians were killed in the final few months of the war."

During the 2010 meeting of the UNHRC, Colombo had avoided being condemned because of the support of permanent Security Council members like China, Russia and ally, India.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime has maintained that the call for an international investigation was instigated by the powerful Tamil diaspora where pro-LTTE remnants remain active. And his regime has maintained that the civilians were not targeted during the last months of the war.

The Rajapaksa-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been dismissed by international rights bodies as inadequate and not up to international standards.

Washington was "particularly concerned," Blake told AFP about attacks against the independent media continued two years after the end of fighting, adding that Sri Lanka must ensure freedom of expression and dissent.

"Sri Lanka's international friends scratch their heads and wonder why there is still this kind of intimidation is occurring," he said.