Sri Lanka notifies UN withdrawing from war crimes resolution

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month had said Sri Lanka was withdrawing from the resolution that the country's previous government had endorsed. — AFP

GENEVA — Sri Lanka on Wednesday notified the UN that it was withdrawing from a United Nations resolution for investigating alleged war crimes committed during a decades-long conflict with Tamil separatists.

"I wish to place on record Sri Lanka's decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of resolution 40/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights," Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Notwithstanding withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of this resolution, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving the goals set by the people of Sri Lanka on accountability, human rights, toward sustainable peace and reconciliation," he said.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month had said Sri Lanka was withdrawing from the resolution that the country's previous government had endorsed.

Rajapaksa was president when Sri Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tiger guerrillas in 2009, but rights groups accused the army of killing at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the conflict.

His brother Gotabaya, who is now president, was defense secretary at the time.

Gunawardena on Wednesday said the resolution was "a blot on the sovereignty and dignity of the people of Sri Lanka". The previous government had turned its back on "a homegrown reconciliation process", he added.

"It made my country a pawn on the chessboard of global politics," he told delegates.

But John Fisher, Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, described the announcement as "a slap in the face to victims and an act of contempt for the UN's top human rights body.

"UN Human Rights Council members should not allow themselves to be fooled — there is no prospect that the Rajapaksas, implicated in war crimes, will take meaningful steps toward accountability," he said.

He argued that the government's move highlighted the need for the rights council to finally establish an international investigation into the war-era crimes — something Colombo has long flatly rejected. — AFP


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