Sri Lanka refuses external probes into alleged war crimes

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on May 31 dismissed calls from Amnesty International to publish the official death toll during the finals weeks of the armed conflict that ended last month. Bogollagama said that only Sri Lankan courts will be permitted to investigate both alleged human rights violations and the number of civilian deaths that occurred during the final weeks of the conflict. AI has called for an independent investigation into the matter, while the UN Under-Secretary General John Holmes has said that it will be very difficult to accurately assess such a number. Media sources have continued to question the numbers circulated by Sri Lankan authorities and the UN as potentially up to three times below the actual number of deaths.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution last week that welcomed the end of the conflict but failed to call for an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict. Aid workers and the international community have expressed concern over human rights violations during and after the Sri Lankan conflict. Despite a joint statement issued by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa about allowing full humanitarian access to refugee or "welfare" camps, the Sri Lankan government has continued to restrict access alleging an ongoing security screening for any remaining rebels. (Jurist, May 31)

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