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Australian probe of Sri Lanka war crimes ‘urgent’

[AFP, Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:19 No Comment]

Australian police said Tuesday they were assessing a dossier containing allegations of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka towards the end of the island’s civil war as a matter of "urgency".

As Australia prepares to host a Commonwealth leaders summit which includes Sri Lanka, Australian Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus said the force was looking at the 500-page submission it received on Friday.

"We asked for that to be assessed as a matter of urgency," Negus told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday.

Negus was unable to say how long the probe would take, but said the matter "is being treated seriously".

Prepared by the International Commission of Jurists’ Australian chapter, the dossier contains testimonies from Sri Lankans now living in Australia claiming they were attacked by government troops during the war that ended in 2009.

ICJ Australia president John Dowd said the brief contains eyewitness evidence of the bombing and shelling of civilians that refutes the Sri Lankan government’s stance that civilians were not targeted.

"As far as war crimes generally, we do take them seriously," Negus said, adding that the matter was a complex legal one.

The evidence was initially collected for an independent war crimes tribunal but because one had not been established Dowd said the ICJ decided to pass it on to Australian police.

Australia can prosecute war crimes committed in other countries, including acts of torture committed outside Australia by a public official, or a person acting in an official capacity or at the instigation of such a person.

The report does not identify individuals and Dowd has denied local media reports that the dossier named President Mahinda Rajapakse and former Navy chief Thisara Samarasinghe, now Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia.

[Full Coverage]

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