Japan backs UN war crimes probe into Sri Lanka war

[TamilNet, Sunday, 20 June 2010, 18:28 GMT]
Japan is backing efforts by the United Nations to investigate war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the final months of the island’s war, Tokyo’s visiting envoy, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, said Sunday. Amid Sri Lanka’s vehement rejection of any international scrutiny into the conduct of its armed forces, two days ago, Mr. Akashi had seemed to imply his government was supporting Colombo when he told reporters "It is up to the Sri Lankan government to define the precise role [of an inquiry]”. However, speaking on Sunday Mr. Akashi endorsed a UN probe and suggested Colombo was not heeding his advice towards a proper accounting of the war.

Mr. Akashi said he had pressed Colombo to allow the UN to get involved in Sri Lanka's post-war reconciliation process.

"The government listened to what I said. (But) I feel there is a lack of flexibility and openness," he said, in comments reported by AFP.

Mr. Akashi said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's upcoming panel "would be useful", although Colombo has opposed an international probe on its conduct in the war and has resisted any calls for an independent investigation.

"It (the UN) could provide experiences and insights. The purpose of it is not to interfere with Sri Lanka's own panel, but to offer ideas and suggestions if needed," he said Sunday, referring to a internal commission appointed by Colombo.

The proposed UN panel is seen as a precursor to a full war crimes probe, AFP reported.

Sri Lanka has said its own commission would address the underlying causes of the conflict as part of the island's healing process, but it has no mandate to probe war crimes.

Mr. Akashi, on his 20th visit to the island as Japan’s Special Envoy, a role which began during the Norwegian peace process, said his country still has a role to play as Sri Lanka goes through a "sensitive period to achieve genuine peace."

He urged Colombo to make use of Tamil political parties to address the grievances of the Tamils, who are pushing for greater political power.

In comments earlier this week, Mr. Akashi said the government’s commission must be "transparent and comprehensible" if it is to ensure reconciliation.

Asked then by reporters about international calls for an independent investigation into the final phase of the war., he only said "We are watching how the reconciliation commission will proceed."

Inevitably, most press reports focussed on Mr. Akashi’s comments which suggested there should be no external pressure on Colombo over war crimes.

"It is up to the Sri Lankan government to define the precise roll," he was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters in Colombo.

"It is not for other governments or international organizations to dictate to Sri Lanka as to what it should be doing in this highly complicated and sensitive area."

Japan, one of the top aid donors to Sri Lanka, in March signed agreements for $426.4 million in development assistance to the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

 

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