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US Senate heavy-weights call for global probe on Sri Lanka.

Sweden, Feb. 11 -- The five signatories to the Senate Resolution tabled February 06 who have called the United States and the international community to "establish an independent international accountability mechanism to evaluate reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka" are heavy-weights in the US Senate.

Three of these heavy-weights, Senators Leahy, Casey and Brown were those who issued a statement on the day Sri Lanka's military forces defeated the Tamil Tigers, 19 May 2009, which said "Today can be a turning point for the people of Sri Lanka. The government has a chance to forge a long-term political solution, one that acknowledges the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and other groups. This means taking steps toward reconciliation and justice, including devolution of power."

The fourth, Senator John Kerry is today Obama administration's secretary of state.

Mr. Leahy, as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chairman of its sub-committee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, blocked military assistance to Sri Lanka, was instrumental in taking Sri Lanka out of the list of eligibility for US Millennium Grant and blocked an IMF loan.

Both committees, headed by Mr. Leahy, have the power to vet foreign assistance, both military and economic.

Mr. Casey, on numerous occasions was instrumental in encouraging other senators to table resolutions critical of Sri Lanka. He has been a vociferous critic of Sri Lanka since the war was concluded.

Senator Barbara Boxer, a 30-year veteran in the US Congress, is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Boxer is also a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, serving as the Chief Deputy Whip since 2005.

Senator Richard Burr who initiated the resolution too is a veteran of 30 years in the Congress.

Titled, "Expressing support for the internal rebuilding, resettlement, and reconciliation within Sri Lanka that are necessary to ensure a lasting peace," the resolution was co-sponsored by Senators Robert Casey, Patrick Leahy, Sherrod Brown, Barbara Boxer and John Cornyn.

The issues addressed in the resolution include:

(1) The Department of State's 2012 Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka outlines ongoing concerns regarding landownership and property restitution, particularly in the Jaffna Peninsula, where large numbers of persons

have not received restitution for land that remains part of government high security zones, and while citizens generally were able to travel almost anywhere in the island, there continues to be police and military checkpoints in the north, and de facto high-security zones and other areas remained off limits to citizens;

(2) The Government of Sri Lanka has not taken tangible steps toward demilitarization of civilian functions, particularly in the North and East, and continued military presence on private lands in the North is preventing the resettlement of internally displaced persons who desire a return to peaceful life;

(3) Calls on the United States and the international community to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to evaluate reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka;

The resolution encouraging an international investigation declares "tangible progress on domestic and international investigations into reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations during and after the conflict and promoting reconciliation would facilitate enhanced United States engagement and investment in Sri Lanka."

Senators Leahy and Casey calling for an international investigation is nothing new when they jointly wrote a letter to the then Secretary of State Clinton in January 2013 noting "Sri Lankans have legitimate concerns about war crimes committed during the civil war that are not being addressed by the government, and an independent, international investigation is needed to get answers."

"The Government of Sri Lanka has made many promises to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities during the war, but nothing has been done," said the senators. "The defeat of the LTTE was widely welcomed, but an opportunity to bring real peace by upholding the rule of law and promoting reconciliation is being missed," they said.

In conclusion the Resolution tabled February 6 envisaging a vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee and the full senate says:

(Quote) Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate-

(1) commends the representatives of the United States on their leadership on United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution (UNHRC) 22/1, adopted by the UNHRC on March 21, 2013, which promotes reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka;

(2) calls on the United States and the international community to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to evaluate reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka;

(3) urges the Government of Sri Lanka to allow unimpeded access for media, international aid agencies, and human rights groups into all regions of the country, as well as to detention sites that may hold political and war prisoners;

(4) urges the Government of Sri Lanka to end its media restrictions, including the obstacles to the flow of information in the North and East, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks on journalists and newspaper offices; and

(5) calls upon the President to develop a comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka that reflects United States interests, including respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, economic interests, and security interests. (End Quote)

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian Tribune.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:Feb 11, 2014
Words:940
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