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Sri Lankan clergy ask for independent inquiry

MANNAR (UCAN): Christian clergy from the Tamil-majority north of Sri Lanka have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to push for an independent international inquiry into atrocities they say were committed during the country’s 30-year civil war.

In a letter dated February 18, signed by 133 Catholic and Protestant priests and sisters, the clergy said the government lacks the political will to investigate alleged war crimes, especially those committed by both the government and the Tamil Tigers during the latter stages of the three-decade war which ended in 2009.

Action is also being sought over continuing rights abuses.

The letter calls for a “strong and action-oriented resolution on Sri Lanka at the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of the war, but the government denies causing civilian deaths and executing prisoners.

In the letter, the Christian clerics also say that they had witnessed continuing ignorance and violations of key recommendations by the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

This is in relation to political solutions to the ethnic conflict, the release of political prisoners and the appointment of a commissioner to look into disappearances and reparations.

“We are convinced that the root cause of these problems is a lack of political will,” the letter states. It is urging the appointment of a special rapporteur with a broad mandate to address past and ongoing violations, to help the government with future reconciliation initiatives.

Oblate Father S Anpurasa, one of the signatories, said there is no other platform to bring these issues for redress, other than the United Nations.

“To whom can we speak about these violations? There is no local organisation to complain to on these issues,” Father Anpurasa says.

He added that the signatories of the February 18 letter will likely cause a government backlash.

“In the last year, those criticising and challenging the government in peaceful ways, including through engagement with the United Nations, have been assaulted, arrested, threatened and intimidated by government ministers, officials and military,” he notes.

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