New Inquiry on Sri Lanka Points to Possible War Crimes

By The New York Times, Published On Tuesday, February 4, 2014
GENEVA — Senior Sri Lankan government officials and military officers may bear criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during an offensive near the end of the island’s civil war, according to a new investigation that backs calls for an international inquiry into those events.

The investigation, released on Tuesday by the Public Interest Advocacy Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy group in Australia, in consultation with prominent international jurists, went beyond other nonpartisan inquiries into the well-documented violence that punctuated the final days of that conflict, Asia’s longest civil war.

Although the Australian group’s investigation draws partly on earlier documented reporting, the group’s inquiry took testimony from new witnesses and submitted its findings to forensic and legal analysis to provide a possible basis for prosecution.

Whether the investigation’s conclusions will seriously affect any international effort to prosecute Sri Lankan leaders remains unclear. But the investigation was released at a delicate time for the country’s government, which is facing increased international criticism over its failure to hold anyone accountable for the large number of killings and other abuses that came in the final chapter of the war in May 2009, ending over 20 years of conflict.

The United States is preparing to sponsor a third successive resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva aimed at pressuring the Sri Lankan government to address the accountability issue.

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