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Terrorism & Security

Rights groups say new evidence suggests Sri Lanka war crimes against Tamil Tigers

Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group have each released new evidence implicating the Sri Lanka government in war crimes during its offensive against the Tamil Tigers one year ago.

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The Globe and Mail reports that Sri Lanka's ambassador to Canada called the claims in the ICG report "unsubstantiated." And Sri Lankan news site ColomboPage.com reports that Sarath Fonseka, the detained former general of the Sri Lankan military, denied any knowledge of the abuses cited in the ICG report.

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[Mr. Fonseka] said he personally planned, supervised, and conducted the ground operations of the prolonged battle.

"To my knowledge, depending on what I know, and what happened on the ground there were no war crimes. I can give you that assurance," he told the foreign journalists. ...

"If somebody says intentional killings of civilians I will deny that," the former military chief stressed.

The BBC's Charles Haviland points out, however, that Mr. Fonseka's denial was only of his personal knowledge and planning of human rights violations, and that it was not a "blanket" denial of war crimes by the government.

In the run-up to the presidential poll in January, reports Reuters, Fonseka was quoted as saying "senior rebels who surrendered with white flags were gunned down on orders from above. He later denied the report and it was retracted."

The HRW report says that after the war ended, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the government would investigate any war crime allegations as part of a reconcilliation process, but that a year on, the government has yet to do so.

The Economist notes that Sri Lanka recently announced the formation of a "lessons learnt and reconciliation commission," but that "based on the experience of previous national commissions of inquiry, outsiders are unlikely to trust this one. Its terms of reference are anyway not to investigate alleged war crimes, but the whole period from February 2002, when the government and the Tigers signed an abortive ceasefire."

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