(Reuters) – Sri Lanka on Friday made public a report by the presidentially-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), providing a set of recommendations and findings on the end of the island nation’s three-decade civil war.
The nearly 400-page report is Sri Lanka’s answer to a U.N.-appointed panel’s finding of “credible allegations” that both the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists may have committed war crimes in the war’s final months. The war ended in May 2009.
Following are some questions and answers about the report.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS REPORT FROM THE UN ONE?
Like nearly everything in the course of the Sri Lankan civil war, there are two vastly different sides to the story.
Sri Lanka’s government did not allow the U.N. panel to come to the island when it was preparing its report, so its findings largely reflect submissions given by rights activists who have been critical of the government and pro-LTTE groups who live in Western nations.
The LLRC took testimony from Sri Lankans — soldiers, civil servants, civilians and LTTE fighters — while also referencing the U.N. report and a host of news items about the war.
So it is a fully home-grown report, with a cross-section of views, even if it was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa — the most adamant defender of the government’s wartime conduct.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The United States, other western nations and even Sri Lanka ally India have said that a credible LLRC report, coupled with strong follow-up including a political settlement with the island’s Tamil minority, will obviate the need for an external war crimes probe.
Since the end of the war, there has been a persistent call by rights activists, pro-LTTE groups, some Western governments and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the allegations of atrocities.
Sri Lanka has so far avoided that. It argues that it must be allowed, like any other sovereign nation, the first opportunity to investigate and address any misconduct.
WILL IT ACT?
That remains to be seen. Rajapaksa’s government has definitely dragged its feet on reconciliation, but has taken many steps to resettle people, rebuild the war zone and give former LTTE combatants vocational training.
It has also said it will investigate and prosecute any cases of military misconduct — something it had heretofore said was unnecessary.
So the ball is still in Sri Lanka’s court.
Sri Lanka’s most persistent critics, namely the pro-LTTE lobby and human rights groups, will likely reject the LLRC panel as not credible and renew calls for a probe.
The more important sign will be diplomatic reaction from the United States in particular and other nations in the West. That will be the best bellwether of whether an external probe will surface.
Washington has been at the fore of urging Sri Lanka to address the allegations in a credible fashion, while giving the government room to decide how it will do that.
(Editing by Yoko Nishikawa