US envoy arrives in Sri Lanka for talks pressure builds over war crimes

Updated 01 February 2014
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US envoy arrives in Sri Lanka for talks pressure builds over war crimes

COLOMBO: A top US envoy on Friday pushed for reconciliation in Sri Lanka which is under intense international pressure to probe rights abuses during the final stages of the island’s decades-long separatist war.
Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, held talks with Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris over a range of issues including allegations that government troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians during the final months of the war in 2009, official sources told AFP.
Biswal, who arrived in Colombo on Friday, is the second US envoy to travel to Sri Lanka in recent weeks after war crimes investigator Stephen Rapp stirred controversy by visiting a former Sri Lankan battleground earlier this month.
The visits come ahead of a UN review of Colombo’s human rights record. A third US-initiated censure motion against Sri Lanka is set to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in March.
During her two-day visit, Biswal will travel to Sri Lanka’s former war zone to meet ethnic minority Tamil leaders, a US embassy spokesman said.

“She will discuss with Sri Lankan (government) officials on the need to do more to ensure reconciliation and accountability,” he said.
Neither side disclosed details of Biswal’s closed-door talks.
However, Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters that Biswal was pushing for progress in reconciliation following the end of the 37-year-old separatist war.
“We talked about issues pertaining to (the upcoming UN Human Rights Council Meeting in) Geneva,” Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lanka has come under increasing pressure to investigate allegations that troops committed war crimes during the decades-long conflict between troops and Tamil rebels, or face international investigations.
Sri Lanka has consistently denied what the UN calls credible allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops in the final months of the war that ended in 2009.
The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which controls the highest level of local government in the former war zone of Jaffna, has said it will send a representative to Geneva for the upcoming UN meeting.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron warned during a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in November that he would use London’s position at the UN to press for an independent investigation unless Colombo showed progress in probing its own troops.


Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

Updated 13 November 2018
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Beijing dismisses ‘hearsay’ on Muslim internment

  • Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that belong in the minority
  • Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism

BEIJING: China defended its internment of Muslims in the country’s northwest as a terror prevention measure on Tuesday, calling on the international community to reject “hearsay” and believe its official line.
Up to a million Uighurs and other Chinese Turkic-speaking minority groups have been placed in political re-education camps in the Xinjiang region, according to a group of experts cited by the United Nations.
After originally denying the existence of the centers, Beijing has repeatedly described the camps as vocational “training centers” that were built to help people drawn to extremism to stay away from terrorism and allow them to be reintegrated into society.
But the program has faced rising criticism outside the country — notably from the United States and human rights groups.
“We hope our journalist friends and our other foreign friends will take into consideration the information and briefings on the situation given by the Chinese authorities,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“Rumours and hearsay should not be believed,” he said standing next to his German counterpart Heiko Maas at a press conference.
“It’s quite clear that the government in Xinjiang knows best what is happening in Xinjiang — not other people and third party organizations.”
Critics say China is seeking to assimilate Xinjiang’s minority population and suppress religious and cultural practices that conflict with Communist ideology and the dominant Han culture.
Former inmates of the camps say they were detained for having long beards or wearing the veil.
Attacks attributed to Uighurs have left hundreds dead over the last few years in China, many of them in Xinjiang, where Beijing says its concerned about a rise in Islamic radicalism.
The authorities have put in place intrusive measures of security — ubiquitous surveillance cameras, DNA sampling, home visits by officials and GPS trackers in cars.
“We call that a combination of repression and prevention. But we place the priority on prevention. If it’s done well, terrorism won’t expand and take root. It’s the most effective way to combat terrorism,” Wang Yi said.
The German foreign minister did not mention the Xinjiang region at the press conference, but did say he had “spoken on the question of human rights” during his closed meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
A debate on the situation in Xinjiang was held in the German parliament last Thursday.
China’s ambassador to Berlin expressed Beijing’s “profound discontent” and put in an official protest following the “blatant interference” in its “domestic affairs.”