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Rights group rejects S.Lanka war probe as smokescreen

[AFP, Saturday, 8 May 2010 08:30 No Comment]

An international rights group Saturday called Sri Lanka’s planned review of its final battle against Tamil Tiger rebels a smokescreen to avoid accountability for alleged war crimes.

President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday said he would name a commission next week to assess lessons from the last stages of fighting in 2009 and recommend measures to prevent a return to conflict.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the move was "yet another attempt to deflect an independent international investigation" into alleged war crimes.

HRW urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to insist on an independent investigation into reports at least 7,000 civilians died in the first four months of fighting last year when troops crushed Tiger separatists.

Sri Lanka has been under intense pressure to probe alleged rights abuses, a demand resisted by Colombo, which maintains no civilians were killed by its security forces.

"Every time the international community raises the issue of accountability, Sri Lanka establishes a commission that takes a long time to achieve nothing," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The UN secretary general "should put an end to this game of smoke and mirrors and begin a process that would ensure justice for all the victims of Sri Lanka?s war," Adams said.

Rajapakse promised the review would search for violations of internationally accepted norms of conduct in conflict situations and identify those responsible.

But the statement did not specifically refer to rights abuses and charges that surrendering rebels were killed while thousands perished in the crossfire or were deliberately targeted.

The Sri Lankan president’s review announcement came as former army chief Sarath Fonseka said he was ready to testify before any international tribunal and expose anyone guilty of war crimes.

The United Nations estimates 7,000 thousand civilians perished in fighting in the early months of last year when government troops overwhelmed Tamil Tiger rebels and ended their 37-year separatist campaign.

[Full Coverage]

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