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EU to demand Sri Lanka war probe

[BBC, Monday, 18 May 2009 06:55 No Comment]

EU foreign ministers are expected to call for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes by Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lanka’s government.

At a meeting in Brussels, they are also due to demand an urgent session of the UN Human Rights Council on the issue.

A draft statement said the EU is appalled by continuing reports of high numbers of civilian casualties.

It says the bloc views with utmost concern reports of the government’s use of heavy weapons.

‘Limited leverage’

Sri Lanka’s civil war may be at an end, but the fate of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone remains unclear.

EU foreign ministers are due to call for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes committed not just by the Tamil Tigers, who have long been on the EU’s list of banned terrorist groups, but also by the government.

The EU is also pushing for the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session on Sri Lanka next week, just as it has in the past done for Burma, Darfur and the Palestinian territories.

In a joint letter released on Friday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his British colleague David Miliband called on the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to avoid using heavy artillery and warned about reports that the security forces had not lived up to their commitments.

Last month, the two ministers visited Sri Lanka but failed to ensure a humanitarian truce.

Diplomats say the EU has limited leverage, although it could remove preferential trade access worth $150m (£100m) – mainly for Sri Lanka’s garment industry, its main export earner, if the country is found to be in breach of its international human rights obligations.

[Full Coverage]

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