US war crimes envoy visits Sri Lanka site

COLOMBO : A senior US official investigating war crimes has visited a former Sri Lankan battleground where hundreds of families were killed in army shelling, the US embassy said Thursday.
US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp on Wednesday travelled to the northern province where troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, the embassy in Colombo said.
The embassy posted a photo on Twitter of Rapp with US ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele Sison during their trip to the north.
“St Anthany’s Ground - site of Jan 2009 killing of hundreds of families by army shelling,” the embassy said in a tweet.
The blunt comments come after Rapp arrived on Monday to meet local officials over allegations of war crimes ahead of a UN review of Colombo’s human rights record.
Sri Lanka has come under increasing pressure to investigate allegations that troops committed war crimes during the decades-long conflict that ended in 2009, or face international censure.
Pro-government Buddhist monks and their supporters protested in Colombo on Thursday against Rapp’s visit, accusing him of trying to discredit the country.
Hundreds of activists blocked the main road outside the US embassy and shouted slogans condemning Washington for censuring Sri Lanka over its rights record at previous UN Human Rights Council meetings.
Protesters led by monks carried placards with Rapp’s photo, accusing him of being a “threat to world peace”.
“Rapp has come here to collect material against Sri Lanka,” the Patriotic Monks’ Front said in a statement.
“We condemn the unjust actions of the US,” they shouted at the protest.
About 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people are Buddhists and the clergy play an influential role in politics, with some becoming ruling party legislators.
Sri Lanka has resisted calls to investigate claims that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by the army during the final push that crushed the Tamil rebels fighting for a seperate homeland.
The UN Human Rights Council meets in March to discuss whether Sri Lanka has shown progress towards reining in alleged rights abuses and investigating suspected war crimes.
The UN estimates that the conflict for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the Sinhalese-majority nation cost at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

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