S. Lanka leader says international criticism ‘tainted’

UNITED NATIONS — Sri Lanka’s president on Friday condemned “tainted” international allegations of a military massacre of civilians during an assault to end a Tamil rebellion.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 24 Sep 2011, 10:39 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:56 AM

President Mahinda Rajapakse appealed for international support as pressure mounted for the UN Human Rights Council to launch a war crimes inquiry into the 2009 campaign in which a UN panel said tens of thousands were killed.

“My country has reason for concern with approaches tainted by an unacceptable selectivity, which we have brought to the notice of the organizations in question in recent weeks,” Rajapakse told the UN summit.

He called for solidarity from other developing countries “against these irregular modalities which should be resisted through our collective strength.”

Defending the government campaign, Rajapakse said “after three decades of pain and anguish, today Sri Lankans of all ethnicities living in all parts of Sri Lanka are free from LTTE terror and no longer live in a state of fear.”

He added that after defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the government was now working on building “the foundations of a unified and vibrant nation.”

According to Rajapakse, 95 percent of displaced people from the conflict have returned to their homes in the 30 months since the military campaign and the economy has been revived.

“Contrary to malicious propaganda, the number of armed forces personnel in the Northern Province is at a minimal level,” he insisted.

“We ask our friends in distant lands to drop pre-conceived notions,” he added in another veiled reference to the international criticism.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon last week sent a report by an independent panel on the military campaign to the UN Human Rights Council, which could call for an international probe.

Ban has said he cannot order an international inquiry into the alleged killings — which the Sri Lankan government has strongly denied — but that a forum such as the council could do so.

The panel of experts named by Ban said in April that the Sri Lankan army killed most of the tens of thousands of civilian victims of the final offensive against Tamil separatists in 2009 but both sides may be guilty of war crimes.

A documentary shown on Britain’s Channel Four in June said the military shelled civilian targets and showed footage of what it said were prisoner executions and the bodies of sexually assaulted Tamil Tiger fighters.

Tamil exile groups in Western nations have sought to build pressure on Sri Lanka’s leadership over the conduct of the 2009 offensive and held protests in New York against Rajapakse’s attendance at the annual UN General Assembly.

A law school clinic said Friday that it has filed a lawsuit in a New York court seeking damages from Major General Shavendra Silva, who now serves as Sri Lanka’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations.

The lawsuit by American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic accused Silva of leading forces that deliberately attacked hospitals and other protected places and carrying out torture and extrajudicial executions of surrendering rebels.

“US courts provide a forum for justice and accountability, where there would otherwise be continued impunity for Sri Lanka’s crimes against Tamils,” said Ali Beydoun, lead counsel on this case.

Accredited diplomats traditionally enjoy immunity from prosecution in the country where they serve and the United States.

Tamil community members earlier this year filed a lawsuit against Rajapakse when he paid a private visit to the United States. The Sri Lankan government rejected the lawsuit and said the president enjoys immunity.

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