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Sri Lankan Tamil leaders reject commission report, call for international war crimes probe

(AP) Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil leaders called Monday for an international war crimes inquiry into events during the final stages of the country’s civil war, criticizing a commission report that cleared government forces of deliberately targeting civilians.

The United States, meanwhile, expressed concerns that the report did not fully address all the allegations of serious human rights violations. The State Department called on the Sri Lanka to address those shortcomings, but stopped short itself of supporting an international inquiry.

Lawmakers in the Tamil National Alliance, the main political party representing the ethnic minority, said the report by the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was a “serious assault” on the dignity of war victims who testified before it and damaged the chances of genuine reconciliation between the country’s embittered ethnic groups.

 “By mischaracterizing the crimes committed during the last days of the war as isolated acts of individual perpetrators, the LLRC has effectively granted immunity to civilian and military leaders responsible for devising the policies that led directly to the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” they said in a statement.

The commission said last week that government forces did not target civilians, but acknowledged that a few isolated violations by individual soldiers needed to be investigated further. It accused the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels of routinely violating international humanitarian law.

Earlier this year, a panel appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it found credible allegations of serious abuses by both sides and called for an international inquiry.

Sri Lanka’s government appointed the commission last year amid intense pressure from international human rights groups and Western governments to establish accountability for alleged war abuses, amid claims that thousands of Tamil civilians died in the final five months of the war. The government is now expected to argue that an international inquiry is unnecessary.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Sri Lankan commission had made substantive recommendations on issues including reconciliation, devolution of power, demilitarization and disappearances. But she said it lacked a comprehensive plan to act on them and left open questions about accountability for alleged rights violations.

 “We have concerns that the report … does not fully address all the allegations of serious human rights violations that occurred in the final phase of the conflict,” Nuland told a news conference. “So this leaves questions about accountability


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