Global rights group flays Lanka

A new report from the global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) has severely criticised the Sri Lankan government for refusing to investigate alleged war crimes despite evidence to suggest widespread atrocities.
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Updated on Jan 26, 2011 06:19 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySutirtho Patranobis, Colombo

A new report from the global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) has severely criticised the Sri Lankan government for refusing to investigate alleged war crimes despite evidence to suggest widespread atrocities.

"Sri Lanka's aggressive rejection of accountability for war crimes is an affront to the victims' of the country's long civil war," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government undermines its claims of clean hands in the fighting with its repressive measures against the media and civil society."

Sri Lanka denied killing civilians during the final stages of the civil war between Tamil separatists and government troops in May. Apparently to deflect international criticism,

President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in May, 2010, to look into the last years of the war. Hundreds of people have deposed before the LLRC till now and the Commission is expected to submit a report by the middle of the year.

But the HRW dismissed the report as whitewash. "However, the commission has severe shortcomings, including members who have not demonstrated impartiality or independence, the absence of a witness protection program for those who testify, and wide reliance on testimony from government officials and military personnel to the exclusion of outside participants," the report said.

The report said that the government has also sought to silence the media, civil society, and the political opposition, adding the media is extremely reluctant to publish articles critical of the Rajapaksa government.

"There is no reason to believe that Sri Lanka will return to a rights-respecting government any time in the near future," Pearson said.

"Until wartime abuses are prosecuted, minority grievances are addressed, and repression against the press and civil society ends, only the president and his family members in power have reason to feel secure in Sri Lanka."

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