Sri Lankan president receives report on war abuses

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2011 11:45 AM
Sri Lankan president receives report on war abuses

A Sri Lankan commission that investigated alleged abuses during the country's civil war delivered its final report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday, amid rising international pressure for an independent probe on war crimes allegations.

The report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was not immediately released to the media. Presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekara said the president has stated that he will present the report to Parliament, which would make it a public document.

The government appointed the commission last year under intense international pressure to probe possible war crimes in the final stages of the war with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

It gathered evidence from ethnic minority Tamils, government officials, politicians, civil and religious leaders and former rebels. International rights groups refused to testify before it, saying the commission is pro-government, had no mandate to investigate the killings and did not meet international standards.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake earlier this year warned that failure to establish accountability through a domestic investigation could lead to "pressure from the international community to look at some kind of international option." Sri Lanka called for patience from the international community, saying the commission would address their concerns.

The United Nations says at least 7,000 civilians were killed in just the last five months of the war. Sri Lankan government soldiers crushed the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, ending the island's 25-year civil war.

A report by a U.N. panel of experts last year accused both the government and rebels of potential war crimes and recommended an independent international inquiry.

The report said the experts have found credible allegations that government troops shelled civilians and hospitals, and blocked food and medicine from reaching the war zone. The rebels were accused of recruiting child soldiers, and holding civilians as human shields and killing civilians who tried to escape their control.

The Sri Lankan government called the U.N. report biased and rejected an international probe, but acknowledged for the first time in August that civilian casualties occurred in the final phase of the conflict, calling the deaths unavoidable.

Britain's Channel 4 television has also aired a series of clips that allegedly show Sri Lankan soldiers shooting blindfolded men and women at close range.