By KRISHAN FRANCIS,
A U.S. diplomat Wednesday asked Sri Lanka to address allegations of possible war crimes toward the end of the country’s civil war and to share political power with an estranged Tamil minority for a lasting peace.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake told reporters that Sri Lanka has promised to address these issues and many others raised by him during official meetings. But he said the “proof lies in results, not in promises.”
Blake’s visit to Sri Lanka followed the release of a U.N.-requested report on the civil war that ended nearly two years ago.
It gives credence to allegations that abuses, and potential war crimes, occurred on both sides of the conflict as the government’s war against the Tamil Tiger rebels was ending. The report by an expert panel recommended an independent inquiry into the events.
Blake said the United States wanted a credible, domestic process to ensure accountability. Sri Lanka has denounced the U.N. report as based on biased and unverified information and an interference in domestic affairs.
External Affairs Minister Gamini Peiris told Blake the report “had no stature as a U.N. document” and a clear distinction must be made between an advisory panel and the world body, the ministry said in a statement.
Peiris told Blake, however, that the government will write to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explaining developments and progress Sri Lanka has made, the statement said.
“Domestic authorities have responsibility to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law are held accountable,” Blake said. “International mechanisms can become appropriate in cases where states are either unable or unwilling to meet their obligations.”
The assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, Blake said the U.S. looked first for Sri Lanka to take investigative responsibility.
During his visit, he met government officials and traveled to the former war zones in the north to observe resettlement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians displaced by the 26-year war.
The U.N. report accused the government of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals and accused the Tamil rebels of holding civilians as human shields.
Between 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, including at least 7,000 civilians in the last five months alone, the U.N. says.
Blake said the U.S. “attaches great importance” to talks between the government and Tamil National Alliance, the main political representative of Tamils, and hoped those talks would result in an agreement on all issues of concern to the Tamils.
He cited issues regarding devolution and detainees, as well as an accounting of people still missing and death certificates for the dead.