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Sri Lanka should honor UN obligations, say activists

Government's seriousness at post-civil war reconciliation in question

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Updated: February 04, 2016 10:44 AM GMT
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Sri Lanka should honor UN obligations, say activists

A file image of Sri Lankans remembering their family members who  disappeared during the country's civil war. (Photo by Quintus Colombage)

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Sri Lankan activists have called upon their government to stand by commitments made in a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that it co-sponsored in October.

Concerns that the government is backtracking on the resolution come after comments by President Maithripala Sirisena in a BBC interview.

The president appeared to indicate "a withdrawal" from the government's obligations, said a statement signed by 23 civil rights organizations and 121 activists including Catholic priests and nuns.

"The president in these interviews categorically stated that foreign judges and experts would not be part of the process," said the statement.

The U.N Human Rights Council approved the resolution on Oct. 1 for foreign judges and prosecutors to help Sri Lanka try those accused of serious crimes during and after the country's decades-long civil war.

That U.N. agreement "showed signs on the part of the new government of a willingness to act on accountability issues" said the statement.

"The withdrawal from such obligations today leads us to question the seriousness of the government's willingness," it said.

The president told the BBC he had full confidence in the Sri Lanka's judicial system and that the only international help that Sri Lanka needed was to assist with the country's economic development.

The activists fear that the U.N. resolution was nothing more than an act to boost the country's image aboard and have asked for the government to clarify its position.

After years of civil war, Sri Lanka's former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, oversaw the defeat of the Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009. The U.N. said at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of the conflict. Rajapaksa rejected international involvement in any reconciliation effort.

The current president, Sirisena came to power in Jan. 9, 2015 and has promised reforms. While Sirisena said he would be more actively engaged with the international community, he has insisted that reconciliation efforts be handled domestically.

Political representatives from Tamil areas and victims of the war have made ongoing calls for significant U.N. involvement in any reconciliation process.

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