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Sri Lanka rejects UN call for foreign judges in war probe

This handout photo released by the Sri Lankan president’s office shows President Maithripala Sirisena (2nd L) administering the oath of office for the newly appointed Chief Justice Priyasath Dep (R) at the president’s official residence in Colombo on March 2, 2017. Dep, the senior-most judge in the highest court of the country, was nominated by the newly established constitutional council, a bipartisan mechanism to ensure independence of the highest office.<br />SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT’S OFFICE / AFP

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has rejected a fresh appeal from the United Nations to allow international judges to investigate alleged war-era atrocities, vowing to not prosecute soldiers.

“I am not going to allow non-governmental organisations to dictate how to run my government. I will not listen to their calls to prosecute my troops,” the president said in remarks distributed by his office Sunday.

The UN on Friday criticised Sri Lanka’s “worryingly slow” progress in addressing its wartime past, urging the government to adopt laws allowing for special hybrid courts to try war criminals.

In his first remarks since the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva handed down a new report on Sri Lanka, Sirisena rebuffed calls for international judges to probe abuses committed during the island’s 37-year civil war.

At least 100,000 people were killed during the separatist war between government forces and rebels from the Tamil Tigers group, which officially ended in 2009.

Sirisena, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, received the support of the Tamil minority after promising accountability for excesses carried out by the largely Sinhalese military.

The president agreed in 2015 to a UN Human Rights Council resolution in October 2015 that called for special tribunals and reparations for victims.

But his comments marked a sharp shift in his policy towards accountability and reconciliation which had initially earned him the praise of international observers.

“A charge sheet is now brought against our forces with a demand to include foreign judges to try them,” he said in a speech to troops in the northern peninsula of Jaffna.

The UN report acknowledged that Colombo had made some positive advances on constitutional and legal reforms, limited land restitution and symbolic gestures towards reconciliation.

But it cautioned that the measures taken so far had been “inadequate, lacked coordination and a sense of urgency.”



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