Sri Lanka’s ex-army chief ready to support ‘war crimes’ probe

Posted by on May 6th, 2010 and filed under International, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Colombo, May 6 (DPA) Sri Lanka’s ex-army commander turned politician Thursday said he would support any investigations into war crimes committed during the final stages of the 26-year civil war if there were valid allegations.

General Sarath Fonseka, who is now a member of Parliament but remains in military custody on allegations of conspiracy against the government, told a news conference in the parliament complex that he would not try to hide any war crimes.

‘Covering up war crimes is not patriotism,’ Fonseka told reporters before he was taken back into detention.

Fonseka pointed out at least three cases in Sri Lanka where military personnel had been punished for human rights abuses.

Fonseka said to a newspaper late last year that he had been told that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had directed a senior military officer not to spare any Tamil rebels who were surrendering during the last stages of the offensive that ended the war.

But Fonseka later claimed that his comments were made only based on what a journalist involved in war reporting had told him.

‘There was nothing of that nature (incidents of shooting rebels coming to surrender) during the last stages of war,’ Fonseka told the news conference.

According to UN estimates, over 7,500 civilians were killed in the conflict in the final stages of the battle in the north-eastern part of the country, before the entire Tamil rebel leadership, including its leader Velupillai Prabhhakaran, was killed in May last year.

The government has denied that large numbers of civilians were killed in the conflict.

Fonseka, after spearheading the military operations against the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, fell out with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and went on to run against him unsuccessfully in the January presidential elections.

Later he fought the April 8 parliamentary elections and was elected to parliament as an opposition member.

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