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UK demands Sri Lankan war crimes probe

Britain has cautioned Sri Lanka saying it must address allegations of war crimes within months or face an investigation by the UN Human Rights Council. The call comes amid a biennial Commonwealth summit in Colombo.

Speaking at a Commonweath Heads of Government meeting in Colombo Saturday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned that Britain would not hesitate in supporting a United Nations Human Rights investigation if the Sri Lankan government failed to undertake “a credible, transparent, independent” inquiry by the end of March 2014.

“The Sri Lankan government needs to go further and faster on human rights and reconciliation,” Cameron told a press conference following talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rakapakse late Friday night.

“I accept it takes time but I think the important thing is to get on the right track….this issue is not going to go away, it’s an issue of international concern.”

Cameron told reporters Rajapakse had requested more time to investigate the allegations, but warned him that if there was no outcome by March, he would push for an international investigation.

“Let me be very clear, if an investigation is not completed by March, then I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to work with the UN Human Rights Commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.”

The UN and other international rights groups report more than 40,000 Sri Lankans were killed in the last stages of the country’s civil war when Tamil Tiger rebels fled northern parts of the country – bringing an end to a 27-year-old ethnic conflict.

Rakapakse maintains that no civilians were killed, and blocks pleas for an independent investigation into allegations government troops committed war crimes against the Tamil population living in the Jaffna region.

Cameron added that Sri Lanka had extraordinary potential for economic development, but there was need to address issues of reconciliation, improvement of media freedom and address how to better the treatment of people displaced by the country’s civil war.

On Friday, Cameron visited the Jaffna region where he met with local ethnic Tamils who lost everything during the conflict.

jlw/hc (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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