Friday, October 23, 2009

More calls to investigate Sri Lanka war

Human Rights Watch is calling for an urgent investigation following a US State Department report about possible violations of the laws of war in Sri Lanka.

The report criticises the actions of the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers during the final months of the 26-year civil war.

Foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller said the report was significant "because it is the first time that a government has actually spelt out some of these allegations of possible war crimes by both sides."

A State Department official in the US has told Channel 4 News that the government of Sri Lanka has a responsibility for accountability.

Jonathan Miller said: "In the absences of any Sri Lankan investigation, any serious Sri Lankan investigation into what happened in the latter stages of the war, or indeed a UN investigation - and that was kiboshed at the UN recently by effective Sri Lankan lobbying - human rights groups, Human Rights Watch, say this report shows the need for a real independent international investigation.

"The Sri Lankan government has dismissed this who report as unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence, but, interestingly, a lot of the stuff that's in it is corroborated by reports from, not only media sources, but by other governments and humanitarian and human rights groups on the ground.

"This report compiles a list of incidents. It doesn't jump to any conclusions about the legality. For example, with the Tamil Tigers, it talks about how they recruited children allegedly; it talks about how they used civilians as human shield.

"On the government side there are detailed allegations of indiscriminate shelling and, for example, they show satellite imagery of a hospital which was filmed in late January, and you can see all the buildings intact on the ground. And then six weeks later in mid-March [images] show the damage to these structures - this was a hospital.

"The State Department will now be relying on the Congress Appropriations Committee which decides on where money goes, to determine what happens next. They will deliberate on this.

"Military aid to Sri Lanka from the US has already been frozen. What could happen is there may be further financial restrictions on dealings with Sri Lanka.

"Whatever happens, though, the Sri Lankan government is not going to like this."

© Channel 4

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