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.


Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

Updated 26 April 2019
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Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

  • Potential bombers ‘at large’ as death toll lowered to 253
  • Muslims asked to shun Friday prayer

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches suspended all public services over security fears on Thursday, as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly Easter bombings.

A senior priest said that all public services were being suspended and all churches closed “on the advice of security forces.”

Authorities revised the death toll down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The father of two of the suspected bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said suspects remained at large and could have access to explosives. Some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack,” Wickremesinghe said.

Hundreds of Ahmadi refugees in western Sri Lanka have taken refuge in mosques and a police station after facing intimidation following the bombings. Scores of Ahmadis who settled in Negombo after fleeing persecution in their home countries have been thrown out of their accommodation by landlords.

Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday over security failures. He submitted a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Britain’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.

“The horrific attack is a demonstration of how tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that originated in this island nation several decades ago returned to haunt a shocked and broken government thanks to a complete collapse of counterterrorism capability or capacity,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, a security expert, writes in an opinion piece.

Hate preacher Zahran Hashim, head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group that is being blamed for the attacks, developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” Daesh propaganda videos to enhance his posts via the pro-Daesh Al-Ghuraba media channel, which used Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, Karasik says. 

Sri Lanka’s Islamic affairs minister, M. H. M. Haleem, asked all Muslims to avoid prayers on Friday for security reasons. He also said it would be a mark of respect for those who perished in the nation’s worst violence in years.

Politician and Western Province Gov. Azath Salley told Arab News that the blasts were orchestrated by a handful of extremists and that the island’s Muslim population could not be held responsible for their “deviant” actions.