Lanka stalls war crimes probe

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka celebrated a major diplomatic victory on Thursday after managing to torpedo Western demands for a probe into alleged war crimes committed during the offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels.

A little more than a week after government troops defeated the separatist army, the island’s diplomats managed to lobby Asian support and commandeer a special session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Council session, called because of alarm over the high number of civilian casualties as well as the island’s treatment of displaced Tamil civilians, ended yesterday with a resolution praising the outcome of the war.

“This is a strong endorsement of our president’s efforts to rout terrorism, and the successful handling of the world’s biggest hostage crisis,” Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

Although the Tamil Tigers were accused of holding tens of thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields, government troops were alleged to have subjected rebel-held areas packed with civilians to intense, indiscriminate shelling.

But Samarasinghe dismissed Western criticism as “double standards.” “They are opposed to the independent action we took to counter and defeat, but they are silent about what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Gaza,” Samarasinghe said.

“This final result shows that Sri Lanka stands on top in terms of wide support across the globe,” Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said. “This constitutes a major achievement in terms of international relations.”

The UN estimates that more than 7,000 civilians were killed in the first four months of this year alone.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay had told the Council there was credible evidence that both Sri Lankan forces and the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) grossly violated international humanitarian laws.

But Sri Lanka — backed by Asian countries including China, India and Pakistan — managed to push through its own resolution.

Military’s fear

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s defeated Tamil Tiger rebels could carry out hit-and-run attacks but lack the ability to militarily regroup, the island’s senior army general said on Thursday.

General Sarath Fonseka said security forces had crushed the entire leadership of the LTTE, leaving little of the once formidable guerrilla force except underground rebel cells. “We have destroyed the LTTE leadership’s first, second and third rungs,” Fonseka said at a ceremony here to honour his field commanders. — AFP