Sri Lanka minister optimistic about war-crimes report delay

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2015 8:51 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said on Thursday he was optimistic about securing a delay in the release of a U.N. report on alleged war crimes during his country's civil war until the government has time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the allegations.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, whose support is key to such a delay, Samaraweera stressed the decision was one for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and the president of the U.N. rights council, but he added: "I am optimistic."

Samaraweera said during a visit to Washington on Wednesday that the new Sri Lankan government was seeking to delay the scheduled March 25 release of the U.N. Human Rights Council report until "August ... or so."

Asked if he was anticipating support from the United States, Britain and Commonwealth countries on the issue, he said: "We hope; we anticipate the support of all our friends in the coming months."

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted last March to look into reports of abuses during the conflict, saying the Sri Lankan government had failed to investigate properly.

The United Nations estimated in 2011 that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final weeks of the civil war, which ended in 2009, most of them by the army. The government rejected this assertion.

Sri Lanka's new government, which took power last month, says it is planning a new local inquiry that would bring in some foreign experts if necessary. It has also invited Zeid to visit to discuss the issue.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler)