US officials unlikely to meet Rajapaksa

State department officials are unlikely to seek a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his ongoing private visit to the US even though global rights groups have demanded that the Sri Lankan head of state be questioned on human rights.
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Updated on Jan 22, 2011 06:38 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySutirtho Patranobis, Colombo

State department officials are unlikely to seek a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his ongoing private visit to the US even though global rights groups have demanded that the Sri Lankan head of state be questioned on human rights.

Reports from Washington quoted US state department spokesperson, PJ Crowley as saying that no arrangement had been made for officials of the department to meet Rajapaksa.

Addressing questions from the media, Crowley said that the US supports Lanka’s internal process – the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – on the issue of violation of human rights during the last phase of the civil war.

He also denied reports that Rajapaksa had met assistant secretary, Robert Blake.

Earlier this week, rights group Amnesty International had demanded that the US should seize the opportunity of Rajapaksa’s visit and launch an investigation into alleged war crimes.

"The United States has an obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute people who perpetrated war crimes and grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director was quoted as having said.

While not committing on the issue, Crowley was quoted as having said: "We clearly believe that those who have violated international humanitarian law must be held accountable, and we believe that accountability for alleged crimes is an essential component of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka.”

Both the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been accused of violating international humanitarian laws in the months before the war ended in May, 2009.

In a related development, the Turtle Bay news website, quoting UN officials, reported that Sri Lanka had cut off direct talks with a UN panel set up in June to promote accountability for war crimes.

The website wrote: ``The panel had been planning a trip to Colombo to question senior officials responsible for addressing massive rights violations during the conflict, but that visit is now unlikely. Sri Lanka's deputy UN ambassador, Maj Gen Shavendra Silva, who commanded troops during the war, wrote to the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month to say that going forward his government would only hold talks with Ban's advisors, not with the panel investigating war crimes.’’

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