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Lankan President Rajapaksa pledges fresh war crimes probe

Lankan President Rajapaksa pledges fresh war crimes probe
Sri Lanka’s president, under pressure from his main opponent in upcoming elections, on Tuesday promised a judicial inquiry into allegations that his troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war.

But President Mahinda Rajapaksa reiterated that he would not cooperate with a UN-mandated investigation into the government’s 2009 crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebellion.

“If any rights have been violated (during the war), justice will be ensured through a transparent domestic judicial mechanism,” Rajapaksa said in his election manifesto. It did not say how this would differ from an inquiry he ordered in July, following intense foreign pressure to account for the 2009 killing of Tamil civilians.

A 2011 United Nations report cited estimates from “credible sources” that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the war.Rajapaksa is credited with crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels who at the height of their power between 1990 and 1995 controlled a third of Sri Lanka’s territory.

But he is also accused of rights abuses and is perceived by some as an increasingly authoritarian ruler.

Maithripala Sirisena, his main opponent in the January 8 presidential election, has already promised a similar investigation.

Rajapaksa was seen as the favourite when he called the snap election in November, two years ahead of schedule.But Sirisena has emerged as a formidable opponent after securing the support of all the main opposition groups, including the tacit support of minority Tamils.

The United Nations has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s separatist war between 1972 and 2009, when security forces declared victory over the rebels who fought for independence for minority Tamils.

Tamils account for about 15 percent of the population and usually vote together. 


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