Sri Lanka to discuss new war crimes probe with UN

Updated 21 February 2015
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Sri Lanka to discuss new war crimes probe with UN

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's newly-elected government will next month look to win UN backing for a domestic probe into alleged war crimes under former leader Mahinda Rajapakse, an official said.
The investigation, which the new administration had promised after winning January elections, comes after the previous regime resisted a UN inquiry into claims that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed under Rajapakse's command in the final months of a war that ended in May 2009.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will travel to Geneva next month to meet UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It gave no details, but an official said the new Sri Lankan administration was keen to get his backing for the investigation.
"Minister Samaraweera wants to brief the Human Rights Council about the new steps that Sri Lanka wishes to take," an official said.
"Sri Lanka is looking for about two months to establish a new (domestic) mechanism."
The government has pledged a credible, independent investigation that may draw on foreign expertise and experience.
Last week, the UN postponed the publication of an eagerly-awaited report on a UN-mandated war crimes probe into Sri Lanka's brutal separatist war, giving the new government time to prove its bona fides.
Zeid's office in a statement last week said the report, which had been scheduled to be presented to the Human Rights Council early next month, would be published by September.
Samaraweera's talks with Zeid come after the government secured parliamentary approval for a long-awaited witness protection law, a key demand of the international community to ensure accountability in the island.
The new government has also pledged to enact a right to information law, another demand of both local and international rights activists who accused the previous regime of persecuting and silencing critics and dissidents.
Former strongman Rajapaksa, who ruled the country for a decade, had insisted that not a single civilian was killed while crushing Tamil rebels and refused to cooperate with any foreign probe, a move that drew international censure.
The UN estimates at least 100,000 people were killed in the conflict against the Tamils between 1972 and 2009.


No extra time: UK says Brexit transition will end in December 2020

Updated 13 min 19 sec ago
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No extra time: UK says Brexit transition will end in December 2020

  • Britain will end its implementation period with the European Union after Brexit in December 2020
  • Northern Ireland will be Britain’s only land frontier with the European Union after Brexit

LONDON/DUBLIN: Britain will end its implementation period with the European Union after Brexit in December 2020, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday, denying a media report that the government was seeking a new transition until 2023.
The spokeswoman repeated Britain’s stance that the transition period would end in December 2020 after The Times newspaper reported that May would propose another transition covering customs and trade to run from 2021 until 2023 to avoid the need for infrastructure or checks on the Irish border.
Northern Ireland will be Britain’s only land frontier with the European Union after Brexit.
Both sides say they are committed to keeping the border with the Irish Republic open, but finding a practical solution has proved elusive so far.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who enjoys strong support from the other EU states, said Dublin could not agree to a time-limited solution.
“Well 2023 won’t do. The Irish government won’t be able to agree to a situation where we put off a fundamental decision like that,” Varadkar told Ireland’s Newstalk radio station.
The EU and Dublin insist the Brexit treaty must lock in a backstop arrangement in case a future trade pact does not remove the need for border controls. London signed up for this last month but disagrees with the EU’s means of achieving it.
Varadkar said: “The whole purpose of having the backstop is that that’s a guarantee that is there in perpetuity and just kicking the can down the road on the basis that maybe we can come up with some sort of legal or technological solutions that don’t exist now, that’s not something we could accept.”
The British government says it will soon propose an alternative backstop idea to the EU, which would see Britain applying the bloc’s external tariffs for a limited period beyond December 2020 if there is any delay on ratification or on introducing new customs arrangements.
May’s spokeswoman said the government intends to be ready with new customs arrangements by the end of the transition period, despite a parliamentary report also saying that Britain may have to stay in the customs union.
In Brussels, EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska urged London to give “at least some kind of predictability” for the period after it leaves the bloc next year.
“From the very beginning of these negotiations, it has been visible that it’s not the European Union that is delaying this process. We are quite well prepared for this,” she said. (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London, Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels. Editing by Stephen Addison)