‘War crimes shadow’ over Sri Lanka: Britain

April 30th, 2009 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 30 (IANS) The international community has rejected calls for suspending Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth although the current conflict in that country is taking place “in the shadows of war crimes,” a British minister said.

Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron said there was the danger of war crimes being committed because of the Sri Lankan government’s decision to keep out international agencies from the area of conflict.

Her warning came after the opposition Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey told the British parliament Wednesday the situation in Sri Lanka could be “close to something like Rwanda,” where genocide occurred in 1994.

Davey cited Francis Boyle, professor of international law at Illinois University in the US and an expert on genocide, as believing the Sri Lankan conflict may have witnessed acts of genocide.

However, Merron - standing in for British foreign secretary David Miliband, who was visiting Sri Lanka - turned down demands for the expulsion of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.

She said the British and international view was to keep the Sri Lankan government engaged in discussions and mentioned the role of the US, France and India in calling upon Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of civilians caught up in the civil war.

Davey also called for the international community to use the threat of sanctions against Colombo, mentioning a pending Sri Lankan application for a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

According to reports here, the US is threatening to block the loan.

Western governments are concerned about the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to declare unconditional ceasefire that would allow Tamil civilians to escape the conflict zone.

“We tried very hard - we insisted and we insisted - but its up to our friends to allow it or not,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is accompanying Miliband on the visit to Sri Lanka, said Wednesday.

Miliband added: “This is a civil war that does have regional and wider ramifications, and happens to be a massive civilian emergency.”

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