2ND LEAD (Adds details)

Peiris US bound amid war crime calls in US Congress

[TamilNet, Friday, 21 May 2010, 23:30 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris is to visit the United States next week for talks with the US government, and is expected to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his stay in US, Colombo electronic media reported quoting External Affairs Ministry sources. The hurriedly arranged visit occurs in the wake of a week of concerted calls by several human rights organizations for independent investigations into Sri Lanka war crimes. Congressmen David Price (D-4th District North Carolina) and Danny K Davis (D-7th District Illinois) added their voices for expeditious action by the international community to probe into war crimes in Sri Lanka. Three more Congresspersons made floor statements referring to traditional Tamil homeland and Tamils as a community under threat, and on the condition of Tamil refugees.

The decision to send Mr. Peiris to US is reported to have been taken by Colombo amidst calls by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, human rights NGOs, and by the international community including the US for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka, against the abuses alleged to have been committed during final stages of the war.

On Thursday several Congress persons in the the US House of Representatives called for war crimes probe, and raised concerns of the nearly 100,000 Tamil refugees still held in internment camps, and the Sinhala colonization taking place in the NorthEast.

David Price (D-NC)
David Price (D-NC)
Danny K. Davis (D-IL)
Danny K. Davis (D-IL)
North Carolina congressman Price, in a statement for Congressional Record, said: "It has also become apparent that the Sri Lankan military may have committed serious abuses during the fighting itself, including the indiscriminate shelling of areas designated as civilian safe zones. A growing number of respected human rights organizations – including the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch – have called for an independent international investigation into potential war crimes, yet the Sri Lankan government has yet to open any meaningful inquiry into the allegations.

"It is also past time for the international community to pursue real accountability, including a credible, independent investigation into the potential abuses committed during the 2009 conflict. I urge the Obama Administration to play a leading role in this effort by calling for an investigation at the United Nations and maintaining current restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance to Sri Lanka until the government has demonstrated credible progress toward meeting the international community’s demands," Price said.

Congressman Davis added, "May 19 commemorates the one-year anniversary of the end of the war and the remembrance of the many lives lost during the civil war in Sri Lanka. I call on the international community to pursue independent investigations into the alleged war crimes that occurred."

"The US would not be alone in calling for these investigations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union have already called for independent investigations," Congressman Davis said Thursday.

Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC)
Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC)
Congressman Michael E. McMahon (D-NY)
Congressman Michael E. McMahon (D-NY)
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Congressman Michael E. McMahon (D-NY) said, "[d]espite a pending debt crisis, the Sri Lankan government is still expanding its military footprint, including a $300 million loan from Russia to purchase new weapons systems. I would urge the Congress to include language in the FY11 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill similar to language included last year. This would restrict all military assistance to Sri Lanka until the government: First, suspends and brings to justice members of the military who have violated internationally recognized human rights or international law; respects internationally recognized human rights, including the right of due process for suspected ex-combatants; treats IDPs in accordance with international standards, and is actively working to resettle individuals in their former homes; provides unrestricted access to conflict-affected areas and populations by humanitarian organizations and journalists; and implements policies to promote reconciliation and justice."

Congressman Brad Miller (R-NC) raised his concern for a "community at risk." He added, "[t]he viability of a traditionally Tamil region in Sri Lanka is under threat. Since the beginning of the war, one third of the Tamil population was driven off the island and many more were displaced. A large area in the north central part of the island that was a predominantly Tamil area is now almost devoid of Tamils. According to the United Nations, more than 60 percent of homes in the north have been seriously damaged by the fighting. To make matters worse, many Sinhalese families moved into traditional Tamil areas while Tamil inhabitants were kept in detention camps following the end of the war. Finally, Tamil homes, churches, temples and cemeteries were destroyed during the war with no assurance from the Sri Lankan Government that they will be rebuilt. Sri Lanka's Tamil population is in danger of losing their identity and their traditional homeland."

Rep. Maurice D Hinchey (D-NY) referred to the 90,000 Tamil refugees still remaining in camps, and said they should be allowed to return to their families immediately.


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External Links:
ZN: Lawmaker seeks investigations into alleged war crimes in Lanka


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