World

Sri Lanka PM will protect military on UN rights action

Sri Lanka's president vowed Friday to protect the country's armed forces from possible international action over allegations of human rights violations during a military campaign to end the island-nation's 26-year civil war two years ago.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa says his armed forces followed international human rights law during their fight with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters )

Sri Lanka's president vowed Friday to protect the country's armed forces from possible international action over allegations of human rights violations during a military campaign to end the island-nation's 26-year civil war two years ago.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the war victory that his forces adhered to international human rights law as they fought separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

"We will not betray you to the world," Rajapaksa said, addressing the armed forces. "Our forces carried the firearm in one hand and the human rights charter in the other. Our forces never harboured hatred toward any community or individual."

"Looking at how other countries fight wars, we are proud of the humaneness of our military campaign," he said.

Accusations of rights violations

However, a recent report by a United Nations panel of experts accuses Sri Lanka's government and the Tamil rebels of serious rights violations and potential war crimes and recommends an independent international inquiry.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he cannot initiate an international inquiry without a mandate from either the Sri Lankan government or the UN's Human Rights Council, Security Council or General Assembly. It is unlikely Sri Lanka would consent to an international inquiry.

The U.S. has urged Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations on its own, but it is unlikely to do so.

The UN report says Sri Lankan government forces deliberately targeted civilians and hospitals, and blocked food and medicine for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone.

It also accuses the Tamil Tigers of recruiting child soldiers, using civilians as human shields and killing those trying to flee from their grip.

The government has denied the allegations and called the report biased.

According to the UN, between 80,000-100,000 people may have been killed in the country's civil war, including at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians killed in the last five months of the conflict.

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