Sri Lanka pledges to punish war criminals after UN report

Updated 17 September 2015
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Sri Lanka pledges to punish war criminals after UN report

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka promised Thursday to punish those found guilty of war crimes but stopped short of supporting an internationally backed probe, a day after a damning UN report on abuses committed during the island’s conflict.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the government would work with the international community to ensure accountability and reconciliation following the island’s separatist war, which ended in 2009.
But Samaraweera did not commit to the UN’s key recommendation to allow international experts to assist its domestic investigation, saying more discussions were needed with stakeholders.
He said the government would establish its own “credible, domestic mechanism” within 18 months to probe allegations in the UN report.
“We have a well-crafted and a sober report,” Samaraweera said. “It is now up to us to investigate and ensure justice is rolled out.”
“Whoever is responsible, if proved, we will punish them without considering their rank or position,” Samaraweera told reporters in Colombo. “By doing that we can protect the good name of the army.”
Releasing the long-awaited report on Wednesday, UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Sri Lanka needed international help to address the “horrific level of violations and abuses” during the decades-long war.
Sri Lanka’s then army chief Sarath Fonseka denied Thursday there had been abuses by troops under his command, but said the government should investigate the UN’s allegations.
“Army, military and the law enforcement authorities will have to face the reality (and) should be in a position to answer reasonably and clear the minds and doubts of those who are making those allegations,” he told reporters.
The UN report alleged that key Tiger leaders were executed by security forces after they surrendered in the final days of the war, but Fonseka denied this.
“According to my knowledge, such an incident did not happen,” he said.
Fonseka fell out with ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa over who should take credit for the spectacular military victory over Tamil rebels.


Afghan president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

Updated 28 min 28 sec ago
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Afghan president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

  • Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014
  • De facto prime minister Abdullah Abdullah is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday formally registered as a candidate for Afghanistan’s delayed presidential election, setting up a rematch with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in the July ballot.
Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014 that was only resolved in a US-brokered power-sharing deal with Abdullah.
De facto prime minister Abdullah — Ghani’s partner in the fragile unity government — is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race.
The president has replaced his current first vice president, Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, with Amrullah Saleh, an ethnic Tajik and a staunch opponent of the Taliban, for his 2019 ticket.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, needs to expand his support beyond Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and build alliances with other ethnicities.
“A strong government can solve the current crisis. The crisis this country has faced in the past 40 years has been because of lack of a strong government,” Ghani said.
But his presidency has been marred by growing militant violence, record civilian casualties, political infighting, deepening ethnic divisions and fading hopes for peace.
The election slated for July 20 comes after President Donald Trump signaled he would bring home half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he grows impatient over America’s longest-ever war.
Washington is stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban’s participation in the next government, with the US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visiting regional powers this month after meeting Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi.
But many Afghans are worried a US pull-out could destabilize the Kabul government and ultimately spark another bloody civil war.
There are also concerns the presidential election, which will now be held in the middle of the Taliban’s traditional fighting season, could unleash a wave of deadly violence as militants seek to disrupt the vote.