International conflict prevention group calls for probe into Sri Lanka's 'war-crimes'

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Toronto, May 18 (ANI): Sri Lanka's bloody campaign to crush LTTE's insurgency is under the scanner for reportedly wide-spread human rights violations, and there is a possibility that conflict prevention group 'International Crisis Group' (ICG) will be carrying out the inquest.

Former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and current ICG chief, Canadian Louise Arbour, will helm the inquiry.

In a report released on Monday, a year after the war's end, the International Crisis Group cited "reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes". There have been accusations of security forces targeting civilians and shelling hospitals to mount pressure on the separatist group.

The LTTE also exacerbated the situation by reportedly shooting fleeing civilians and taking them hostage to raise international pressure and secure a cease-fire.

The plight of hapless innocents and the huge loss of life and property in the besieged LTTE infested region has drawn concern from various quarters, with Arbour demanding that Sri Lanka should co-operate in the investigation and calling for UN sanctions to be slapped on the country if it fails to do so.

According to The Globe and Mail, the Brussels-based group, funded by donors and governments including Canada's to study armed conflict and how to avert it, called for a United Nations-backed inquiry to account for a Sri Lankan government victory over the Tigers that came "at the cost of immense civilian suffering and an acute challenge to the laws of war."

Canada has one of the highest immigrant populations of Sri Lankans, mostly of Tamil descent, with their population in the vicinity of 200000.

"I would like to see Canada encourage the [UN] Secretary-General to launch an international investigation," Arbour told the Globe and Mail.

Arbour said that Canada "should not hesitate to exercise its universal jurisdiction" to prosecute Sri Lankan war crimes and human-rights abuses if suspects surface here.

"We really believe that unless there's accountability for what happened, there is no chance - no chance - of a lasting peace in Sri Lanka," she added.

Canada, the United States, India and other countries with significant Sri Lankan populations should insist on such a probe, the Group said, and sought to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka, which is not a member of the International Criminal Court, unless it complies, the paper reports.

Chitranganee Wagiswara, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Canada in Ottawa, reserved comment on the report until she heard from her government in Colombo she maintained that the Group's assertions will be treated as allegations until conclusive evidence of the same is produced.

Meanwhile David Poopalapillai, spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress, said he was "very happy" the report called for an independent inquiry, as Tamils have demanded since before the war ended. "Our cries have been vindicated," he said. (ANI)

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