War

UK says Sri Lanka must act on war atrocity claims

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 4:23 AM
UK says Sri Lanka must act on war atrocity claims

By Michael Holden

LONDON, Jun (Reuters) - Sri Lanka must investigate allegations of atrocities committed during its civil war after more video footage was aired claiming to show "horrific scenes" of bound prisoners being executed, Britain said on Wednesday.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said a failure to probe the claims of human rights abuses at the end of the 25-year war with guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could lead to international action against Colombo.

Burt's comments came after Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a documentary "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields" late on Tuesday which appeared to show the summary execution of Tamil prisoners by government soldiers.

The new video evidence, allegedly captured on mobile phones, showed three people including a woman, who appeared to be bound and blindfolded, being shot. The Sri Lanka High Commission in London denied the accusations, and a government official in Colombo criticized Burt for being influenced by the LTTE.

"It is a fact that pro-LTTE groups in Britain are applying a lot of pressure on British politicians to pay attention to the Channel 4 video," said Rajiva Wijesinhe, a government legislator who deals with war crime allegations.

"I would be particularly sorry of Alistair Burt for succumbing to this," he said.

Last month, other footage obtained by Channel 4 which apparently showed soldiers executing naked men and women, led to condemnation from Christof Heyns, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Heyns said the video was, on the face of it, convincing evidence of "serious international crimes."

Sri Lankan authorities had rejected the footage as falsified and accused the United Nations of bias and jumping to hasty conclusions. The government has rejected any independent probes into war crimes allegations, saying only its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission would investigate.

Burt said Britain had been calling for a thorough, independent probe into claims of war crimes since the conflict ended in 2009.

He said the government now expected to see progress by the end of the year, a message he had reiterated to Sri Lanka's foreign minister on Tuesday.

"If the Sri Lankan government does not respond we will support the international community in revisiting all options available to press the Sri Lankan Government to fulfill its obligations," he warned.

(Reporting by Michael Holden in London and Shihar Aneez in Colombo; Editing by Miral Fahmy)