Pro-gov't Sri Lankans reject US official's visit

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Associated Press

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 4:07 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A group of Sri Lankan government supporters protested Thursday against a visit by a U.S. diplomat to discuss alleged war crimes committed during Sri Lanka's civil war, accusing America of ignoring its own human rights violations.

Stephen J. Rapp, an ambassador-at-large with the Office of Global Criminal Justice, has met with ethnic Tamil politicians and religious leaders and is scheduled to meet with Sri Lankan government leaders before leaving the island nation on Saturday.

His visit comes amid intense international pressure on Sri Lanka to conduct its own investigations into the alleged war crimes committed by both sides — government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels — especially in the final stages of the quarter century-long war, which ended nearly five years ago.

The United States has sponsored two resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council urging a credible local investigation. The rights council is expected to review Sri Lanka's progress at its sessions in March.

U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay has said she will recommend that the council establish its own probe if Sri Lanka fails to show progress by March.

The banner-carrying protesters Thursday accused the U.S. of trying to victimize Sri Lanka for defeating the Tamil Tigers, who are designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and others. They also said the U.S. was using a double standard by ignoring its own human rights violations.

Sri Lankan troops in 2009 defeated the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

A U.N report says as many as 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last few months of the fighting, mostly by government troops.

Sri Lanka's government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals, and blocking food and medicine to civilians trapped in the fighting. The rebels have been accused of holding civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to flee their control and recruiting child soldiers.

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