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US: Investigate alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan President

    January 20, 2011

    The United States should investigate Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa, on a surprise visit to the US today, for his alleged role in perpetrating torture and war crimes, Amnesty International said today. Mahinda Rajapaksa reportedly left Sri Lanka early Wednesday morning with a delegation of 20 bound for the US.

    "The US has an obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute people who perpetrated war crimes and grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa is commander in chief of Sri Lanka's armed forces, which face numerous allegations of war crimes, enforced disappearances, and torture. Under international law, military commanders may face criminal responsibility if they knew, or should have known, of such crimes being committed by their subordinates.

    The President’s visit comes as a Panel of Experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon works on a report advising him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka. Both Sri Lankan government forces and members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are accused of having committed war crimes in the final phase of the decades-long conflict.

    Amnesty International has called for the UN to initiate an international investigation.

    "Thousands of victims in Sri Lanka demand accountability for the abuses they've suffered from the Sri Lankan security forces as well as armed groups such as the LTTE," Sam Zarifi said.

    In December Wikileaks exposed a secret US Embassy cable sent by Ambassador Patricia Butenis from Colombo in which she noted the difficulty of bring perpetrators of alleged crimes to justice when “responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers ....”

    The US should further investigate these allegations and support calls for an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s role in war crimes.

    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236

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