India backs Lanka’s efforts to probe alleged war crimes

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at a meeting in New York on September 25, 2015. Photo - PTI

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at a meeting in New York on September 25, 2015.
Photo – PTI

Government of India has lent its support to Sri Lankan establishment in their efforts to probe alleged war crimes during the last phase of civil war with the LTTE during 2009. India also acknowledged that there was a “sea change” in the approach of Sirisena-led new government in Sri Lanka over the issue that has stirred a contention of major human rights violation by the state army during the war-torn phase of the island nation.

The issue of human rights and an ongoing discussion over it in UN Human Rights Council came up during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on the sidelines of the UNGA summit on Friday.

“As far as India is concerned, we naturally support the quest for justice. At the same time we are respectful of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. We are hopeful that a way will be found where both these points and objectives can be met,” External Affairs Minister spokesman Vikas Swarup apprised the press after the meeting between two leaders.

The issue has pretty often found an emotional echo in the domestic politics, with political parties in Tamil Nadu demanding action against Sri Lanka over the alleged crimes against the ethnic Tamils, who constituted the most of LTTE cadres.

The MEA spokesperson also added that Sri Lankan government is “engaging” with the UN Human Rights Council and there is a “sea change” in the approach of the new government.

“It a sea change from the position that was there earlier. Our position is very clear. We stand for justice and at the same time we are respectful of the Sri Lankan sovereignty issues,” the MEA spokesperson said.

On the contentious issue of setting up a hybrid court to probe alleged war crimes, the MEA stated that India would have to look at the final outcome of the draft resolution on the same. It also said that India hopes that the resolution would be acceptable to Sri Lankan government.

“Our expectation at this point is that hopefully it will be a consensus resolution which everyone will be able to pass unanimously and it is something which will be acceptable to the Government of Sri Lanka also,” Mr. Swarup added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has sought for the formation of a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, while Sri Lanka has been insisting on a domestic mechanism to probe the matter.

The Rights groups, on its part, has claimed that the Sri Lankan military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict with the LTTE that ended in 2009. A US-initiated draft resolution on Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations has called for a domestic judicial mechanism that includes foreign judges to probe the war crimes during the conflict with the LTTE. The draft resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the US the UK, Macedonia and Montenegro was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva this week.

Meanwhile, in his discussion with the Sri Lankan President, PM Modi stressed on reconciliation process and developmental projects. India also made number of new commitments on the latter, concerning railway, infrastructure power and housing project.

(With inputs from the PTI)