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Britain’s Labour Party backs international inquiry into Sri Lanka

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has unequivocally called for an international commission to be set up to investigate the allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Speaking at a 'Tamils for Labour' event on the sidelines of the Labour Party conference last week, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said the party's entire front bench was united on the view that Sri Lanka’s own inquiry, the LLRC, is not capable of holding an independent inquiry.

Mr Alexander expressed the Labour Party’s disappointment with the UN Human Rights Council and the continued delay in addressing accountability for alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

But he also demanded that Britain itself must be held to account with regards to its responsibilities in ensuring war crimes are investigated and the perpetrators held to account.

Mr Alexander said that the primary responsibility in investigating the allegations lies with Sri Lanka but expressed concerns the Labour Party holds about the credibility of Sri Lanka's domestic commission, the LLRC, referring to the safety of witnesses and the neutrality of the panel.

He pointed out it was impossible to ‘judge [the panel] as a genuinely neutral body in assessing evidence’.

"I feel it is right, and after discussions with my shadow frontbench team, to say we are not convinced that this Commission can do its work even with international participation and there does need to be an international commission that looks into the evidence."

Mr Alexander stressed the Labour party is also concerned not just about the past, but about the ongoing situation in Sri Lanka.

The continuing disappearances of civilians speaking up against the government and the manner of resettlement of IDP’s are ongoing human rights issues that the Labour Party wants addressed.

The labelling by Sri Lanka of over 3000 individuals as ‘ex-combatants’ was also questioned by Mr Alexander, who he said "we know include [..] secretaries and clerical workers."

The Shadow Foreign Secretary pledged that Labour MPs will continue to raise Sri Lanka’s human rights issue in parliament and gave his word that there is a "real and genuine concern and a continued determination to give voice to this concern."

See Mr. Alexander's full speech:

See also the address to the Labour Party annual conference by Mr. Sen Kandiah, the Chair of 'Tamils for Labour' - said to the Labour Party's fastest growing affiliate organisation.