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British MPs express ‘concern and disappointment’ at lack of international probe for war crimes in Sri Lanka

British parliamentarians have written to Prime Minister David Cameron to express “concern and disappointment” at the government’s apparent support for a domestic mechanism to investigate and prosecute violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka.

The group of nine MPs said there was “no reason to pass all responsibility for justice to the national government,” and they disagreed with Minister of State at the Foreign Office Hugo Swire’s statement that the new Sri Lankan government has the UK’s “full confidence”.

“Change in Sri Lanka is slow, and confidence in the state apparatus is very low amongst Tamils,” said the MPs in a letter to Mr Cameron.

Noting a recent report from Freedom From Torture, the letter said “there has been limited action from the new administration to tackle vested interests in the military, police and intelligence services”. “Furthermore, President Sirisena himself served as Defence Minister in the final days of the civil war, when most civilian casualties occurred. Meanwhile, many of the most senior government and military figures remain unchanged from those dark days.”

“How can the Sri Lankan people have faith in a purely national mechanism, when key witnesses still do not have access to proper protection and are afraid to speak out? How can a national tribunal convened by a government whose members are themselves implicated in the crimes be expected to hold the right people thoroughly to account?”

“Six years after the end of the brutal civil war, not one person has been prosecuted for war crimes, despite the fact that forty thousand Tamils died in the final stages of war alone,” added the letter. “We cannot stand by and let limited national mechanisms fail to provide the victims of inhumanity the fairness and justice that they truly deserve. The justice process must have people’s full confidence if it is to bring closure and a new beginning for the Sri Lankan people.”

See the full text of the letter here.

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