Will probe war abuses: Sri Lanka to US

Sri Lanka to US Sri Lanka on Friday said it will conduct its own investigation into allegations of war abuses including those by its armed forces, the country’s Foreign Minister said, rejecting calls for setting up an international tribunal.

"The Sri Lankan Attorney general has started the inquiry into the alleged war abuses and human rights violations that occurred during the last few months of end of the civil war," GM Peiris, told reporters at a news conference held here at the end of his four-day US trip.

"The investigations would include alleged violations by the security forces too," he said.

Peiris made these comments after meeting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where he presented a detailed reconciliation plan to the US administration.

During the meeting, Hillary strongly urged "accountability", in probing the war crimes allegations "to strengthen reconciliation, public confidence inside and outside Sri Lanka, and, frankly, to speed the healing of the country," according to the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

The meeting comes in the wake of strained ties between Washington and Colombo over the American sponsorship of a UN human rights resolution calling on Sri Lanka to conduct an independent probe into civilian deaths in the final phase of the country’s civil war that ended in 2009.

Nuland said that Colombo had presented a "serious and comprehensive" plans for recommendations of a probe into human rights abuses that now needed to be made public and put into practice.

"The local enquiry has just started. It has to be given reasonable opportunity to move forward and to come to a conclusion. Until that is done, any kind of intervention by any kind of international tribunal is premature," Peiris told reporters.

The Foreign Minister said the Sri Lankan delegation accompanying him gave a "comprehensive" account to the US official of the steps it has taken after the end of the civil war and towards addressing the concerns of the international community.

However, he insisted that there was no document handed over.

"There was no document which we handed over with regard to an action plan. But what we explained to them did constitute a comprehensive account of what have we done, what is now being done, and our thoughts relating to the trajectory for the future," Peiris said.

"We did discuss accountability and we did inform them of the machinery that has been set up to deal with that," he said.

"The Attorney General has been tasked with preparing material relating to situations where there may be prima facie…We have to examine that, whether the prima facie evidence would justify institution of criminal proceedings," the Foreign Minister said.

Noting that there were a few episodes that were indicated in the report of the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission), the minister said LLRC recommended that further investigation be done into those particular incidents.

"We would be eager to complete the implementation process of the LLRC recommendations as early as possible," he said. Responding to questions, Peiris said talks were also held on reducing Sri Lanka’s dependence on Iranian oil; which was praised by the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, after the meeting.

Peiris said Sri Lanka has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil by 20 per cent. The Foreign Minister said there was a good deal of discussion about matters concerning trade between the two countries.

"Both sides are convinced that now more than ever before there are abundant opportunities for expanding the scope of the commercial relationship. Now that peace and stability has returned to the island there are many areas where American companies can be more active than they have been in the past," he said.

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