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Sri Lanka government defends war crimes commission

The Sri Lankan government on Thursday continued to defend the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a government mandated probe into alleged rights violations committed during the end of the nation's civil war [JURIST new archive], against widespread criticism. The commission is accused of lacking objectivity [IRIN report], showing favor for the ruling party, failing to protect witnesses and having a narrow mandate that prevents it from effectively investigating crimes. The LLRC has been further criticized [HRW press release] as a superficial attempt to stave off an international investigation into accusations of widespread and severe human rights abuses by government forces during the war. Earlier this year, Sri Lanka declined to allow a panel of UN experts entry to examine alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the final stages of the civil war. The government has said that it plans to submit [Daily Mirror report] the LLRC's final report to the UN Secretary-General and the international community and plans to take remedial measures based on the recommendations of the report.

Last week, international human rights groups Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI) and the International Crisis Group (ICG) [advocacy websites] publicly declined an invitation [joint letter; JURIST report] to testify before the LLRC. In rejecting Sri Lanka's invitation, the groups stated that they would welcome the opportunity to appear before the commission if they felt it was a genuine and credible effort to pursue accountability and reconciliation. The rights groups criticized the commission's failure "to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries" and "government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses". The groups went on to state that the LLRC's mandate, composition, procedures and the nation's human rights environment make it impossible to carry out a free and independent inquiry into war crimes. AI is particularly concerned about the suitability of a number of former officials serving on the commission who have defended Sri Lanka against war crimes accusations, and the lack of witness protection provisions. In the recent past, the advocacy groups have accused [JURIST report; JURIST report] Sri Lanka of carrying out various human rights violations during the final months of the 30-year civil war.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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