Canon mooted in Sri Lanka for internal war situations

Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt. Gen Jagath Jayasuriya. File Photo: Defence Ministry Sri Lanka’s military on Thursday asked the government to introduce its own rules to deal with civil wars, saying existing international humanitarian laws cover only state actors and not terrorist organizations.

The country’s armed forces face numerous human rights allegations for their conduct during a decades-long civil war with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in 2009.

The suggestion is part of the military’s response to a call to implement a war commission report that suggests investigating abuse allegations against government soldiers.

The army also rejected a suggestion by the commission to confine police to civil matters only, saying they should be placed under the defence ministry. Even though it is common for police to be under home ministry or under purview of a regional administration in many countries, “such countries do not face widespread internal disorders,” it said.

Sri Lanka is likely to face questions at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in March on what steps it has taken to implement the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya handed over the military’s seven recommendations to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Thursday. It also includes a suggestion calling for local guidelines on the roles of international humanitarian organizations in civil war situations.

During the civil war Sri Lanka often loudly accused aid groups of helping the Tamil Tigers and ordered their eviction from the war zone when it started its final offensive, limiting essential supplies to hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside the war zone.

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