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Britain demands Sri Lanka probe

UN panel reported that there are credible reports that government and Tamil Tigers committed serious human rights violations

Sri Lankan troops walking amongst debris inside the war zone
Image Credit: AFP
Troops walking amongst debris inside the war zone, when they helped evacuate the last of the Tamil civilians from the area. Sri Lanka has denied it targeted civilians while crushing Tamil Tiger rebels.
Gulf News

Colombo: The British government said on Wednesday that it's shocked by a documentary that purportedly shows Sri Lankan troops committing war crimes, and warned that it will back international action unless the island nation shows progress with an investigation this year.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement that he was "shocked by the horrific scenes" in the documentary aired by Britain's Channel 4 television late Tuesday.

"Since the end of the conflict, the UK has called for an independent, thorough and credible investigation of the allegations that war crimes were committed during the hostilities, and the UK government expects to see progress by the end of the year," Burt said.

"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."


The documentary includes video that appears to show civilian deaths and prisoner executions in the last stages of the civil war that ended in May 2009.

Channel 4 says the video was obtained from ethnic Tamil civilians and Sri Lankan soldiers, and last month a U.N. expert said it showed "definitive war crimes."

Sri Lanka's government says the video is fake.

"As far as the Channel 4 video clip is concerned, at the very outset we had experts brought in and in accordance with their analysis the authenticity of the footage was in serious doubt," Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Associated Press.

"This kind of manipulation will not be taken lightly," he said without explaining what action the government would take. He also criticized Britain's "unilateral" decision to set a time frame in asking Sri Lanka to show progress in investigation.

"The time frame is also part of the adverse agenda (against Sri Lanka). So we will deal with that," Rambukwella said, without elaborating.

UN experts' panel

A UN experts panel reported in April that there are credible reports that both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels committed serious human rights violations – including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity –  in the last months of the decades-long war.

It said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed, and it called for an independent international investigation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he can initiate an investigation only with the approval of the General Assembly, Security Council or Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka counts on the support of Russia and China to extricate itself from any possible international action. China was among Sri Lanka's allies that defeated a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009 within days since the end of the civil war, calling for an investigation into the alleged atrocities committed during the conflict.

The countries also pushed through a resolution praising Sri Lanka for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels.