US Backs Sri Lanka's War Crimes Probe
By Krishan Francis 27 August 2015
COLOMBO — The United States said Wednesday that it wants to sponsor a resolution at next month’s UN human rights session that is supportive of Sri Lanka’s government, which wants to conduct its own investigation into alleged war crimes.
The announcement by the visiting Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal of a joint resolution with the Sri Lankan government presents a major shift by Washington on the South Asian island nation.
“The United States has announced on Monday in Geneva that it will be offering a resolution in the September session of the Human Rights Council. We have also expressed our hope that it will be a resolution which we hope to offer collaboratively, working with the government of Sri Lanka and with other key stakeholders,” she said.
The US was in the forefront in adopting three resolutions at the UN human rights sessions on Sri Lanka, the last of which last year called for an international independent investigation into the alleged abuses.
Biswal said, however, the US now supports a local investigation that the new Sri Lanka government of President Maithripala Sirisena has promised.
Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, who accompanied Biswal, said that the new government’s approach in dealing with the issues had resulted in the US softening.
“A hallmark of this government’s approach to these difficult issues has been that it has defended the interests of Sri Lanka without being defensive, without denying painful facts and trying to discredit critics,” he said.
The American officials did not say what the new resolution would contain, but said it will follow a report by the UN Human Rights Council scheduled to be released next month.
Relations between the US and Sri Lanka were strained under previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who oversaw a military campaign that defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels six years ago and ended a decades-long civil war.
Both sides were accused of serious human rights violations amounting to war crimes, and an earlier UN report said some 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in just the last few months of the fighting, largely as a result of the government’s shelling.