Sri Lanka rejects UN call for foreign judges in war probe

'I am not going to allow non-governmental organisations to dictate how to run my government. I will not listen to their calls to prosecute my troops,' president Maithripala Sirisena said.

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COLOMBO // Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena has rejected a fresh appeal from the United Nations to allow international judges to investigate claims of war-era atrocities, vowing to not prosecute soldiers.

“I am not going to allow non-governmental organisations to dictate how to run my government. I will not listen to their calls to prosecute my troops,” the president said on Sunday.

The UN on Friday criticised Sri Lanka’s “worryingly slow” progress in addressing its wartime past, urging the government to adopt laws allowing special hybrid courts to try war criminals.

In his first remarks since the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva handed down a new report on Sri Lanka’s 37-year civil war, Mr Sirisena rebuffed the call.

At least 100,000 people were killed during the war between government forces and rebels from the Tamil Tigers group, which officially ended in 2009.

Mr Sirisena, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, received the support of the Tamil minority after promising accountability for excesses carried out by the largely Sinhalese military.

The president agreed to a UN Human Rights Council resolution in October 2015 that called for special tribunals and reparations for victims.

But his comments marked a sharp shift in his policy towards accountability and reconciliation, which initially earned him the praise of international observers.

“A charge sheet is now brought against our forces with a demand to include foreign judges to try them,” he said to troops in the northern peninsula of Jaffna.

The UN report acknowledged that Colombo had made some positive advances on constitutional and legal reforms, limited land restitution and symbolic gestures towards reconciliation.

But it cautioned that the measures taken so far had been “inadequate, lacked coordination and a sense of urgency”.

* Agence France-Presse