The United States called on Sri Lanka Wednesday to bring to justice anyone responsible for war crimes committed as the island crushed a decades-long insurgency.
“The international mechanism can become appropriate in case of states that are unable or unwilling to meet their obligations,” the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia told reporters at the end of a two-day visit to Sri Lanka.
Colombo has rejected a report commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which found “credible allegations” that the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tigers rebels were guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity.
The UN has estimated that tens of thousands of people died in the 2009 offensive, in which the government killed the Tamil Tigers’ leaders, ending a 37-year separatist campaign.
Blake, a former ambassador to Sri Lanka, said the island could have its own investigation in line with internationally accepted human rights standards, rather than face an external inquiry.
“We look first to the host government, in this case the government of Sri Lanka, to take responsibility (for) these issues.
“The US has continuously expressed to the government of Sri Lanka to implement a credible process of accountability,” Blake said.
Last week Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris denounced the UN report as “legally, morally and substantively flawed” and accused the global body of trying to destabilise the island.
Blake said he was “encouraged” that Peiris planned to communicate with Ban, and was keen to continue “cordial relations” with the UN secretary general and his team.
“The UN report underscores the importance of a durable political solution that can forge a prosperous, democratic and united Sri Lanka, but also the importance of dialogue between the UN and the government of Sri Lanka.”
Blake said he had taken part in a series of “productive” meetings with senior government officials.
While Sri Lanka has done a lot to re-settle civilians displaced by war, he said, much more needed to be done in areas like welfare, demining, providing a full account of those missing and the issuing death certificates for the dead.