After Libya referral to ICC, US warns Sri Lanka on war crimes
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 March 2011, 13:12 GMT]
The United States warned this week that Sri Lanka could be hauled before a war crimes tribunal over the killing of “many thousands of civilians” in the final months of its armed conflict, if it is not willing hold to meet international standards in its own investigations into the mass killings, AFP reported. The warning, described by AFP as “the toughest yet” came in comments by US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, in an interview with the agency. Blake also cited the UN Security Council referring Libya to the International Criminal Court last week as a signal of global concern over human rights.
Blake, a former ambassador to Sri Lanka, said it was "preferable"for Sri Lanka to have its own investigation in line with internationally accepted human rights standards, rather than face an external inquiry.
However, "It's important to say that if Sri Lanka is not willing to meet international standards regarding these matters, there would be pressure to appoint an international commission to look into these things," Blake told AFP.
"The UN has estimated that many thousands of civilians were killed in the final few months of the war," Blake said.
Blake, who was in Colombo during the final stages of the armed conflict, said the Tamil Tigers had put civilians in harm's way, but Colombo too should be held accountable.
He said he was not comparing Sri Lanka with Libya, but said the UN security council's unanimous decision against Libya over the weekend underscored the resolve of the international community regarding crimes against humanity.
In the video interview from Washington yesterday, Blake said reconciliation, accountability and human rights were among the key elements the US wanted to see to normalise ties with Sri Lanka.
The US official said there had been improvements in re-settling thousands of people displaced by the conflict and attempts by the government to address some of the issues, but more progress was needed.
Washington was "particularly concerned" that attacks against the independent media continued two years after the end of fighting, Blake said, adding that Sri Lanka must ensure freedom of expression and dissent.
"Sri Lanka's international friends scratch their heads and wonder why there is still this kind of intimidation is occurring," he said referring to recent attacks against an office of a pro-opposition website and journalists.
His remarks came as the UN Human Rights Council was meeting in Geneva