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U.S. to criticise Sri Lanka at U.N. rights council

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 28 Jan 2013 20:02 GMT
Author: Reuters
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COLOMBO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The United States will deliver a sharp public rebuke to Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March for failing to pursue those responsible for abuses as government forces were crushing Tamil rebels in 2009, officials said on Monday.

A three-member U.S. delegation is in Colombo on a five-day visit to discuss issues including progress in implementing the recommendations of Sri Lanka's own official investigation into the war, which called for the prosecution of soldiers suspected of killing civilians.

But Washington appeared dissatisfied enough to announce that it would repeat its action of last March, when it sponsored a resolution at the UNHRC urging Colombo to implement those recommendations.

"The U.S. has decided to sponsor a procedural resolution (against Sri Lanka) at the March 2013 sessions of the UNHRC," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore told reporters in Colombo.

"The U.S. and the other 23 members of the UNHRC who voted for that resolution in 2012 believe that the government of Sri Lanka needs to fulfil its commitments made to its own people."

Rights groups allege that the Sri Lankan military was responsible for the killing of thousands of ethnic minority Tamil civilians in the shrinking territory held by rebels in the last month before the end of the war.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government rejects the allegation and says it never targeted civilians.

It says it has been implementing the inquiry's recommendations, but rights groups and Western nations say the implementation is far from satisfactory.

Washington has also raised concerns about the removal of Sri Lanka's chief justice and restrictions on freedom of expression.

The government ignored established procedures to subject Shirani Bandaranayake to parliamentary impeachment, after which Rajapaksa sacked her and replaced her with a close ally. Leading jurists from around the world said the action violated international law.

"It is safe to say that the impeachment of the chief justice also contributed to the decision to ensure that the record (against Sri Lanka) stays fresh in Geneva," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vikram Singh told reporters. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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