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Sri Lanka to probe wartime disappearances

July 26, 2013

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president will appoint a special commission to look into disappearances that occurred during the island nation’s civil war, officials said Friday.

The move comes as Sri Lanka faces rising international criticism for failing to investigate alleged war crimes during the final stage of the quarter century-long war, which ended four years ago, including civilian deaths and disappearances.

A statement on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official website said an earlier government commission had recommended that a special commissioner be appointed “to look into the alleged disappearances and provide material to the attorney general’s department to initiate criminal proceedings as appropriate.”

Presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said a commission would be formed and that the names of its members would be announced later.

The civil war ended in May 2009 after the government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in the island’s northern and eastern regions. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the conflict.

A U.N. investigation has indicated that the ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government might have killed as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the war’s final months.

Rajapaksa’s government initially denied that any civilian deaths occurred, but later agreed to investigate instances of alleged abuses identified by its own war inquiry. A reported issued by the earlier commission, released in December 2011, cleared government forces of wrongdoing.

The government has argued that its own investigation should suffice, but international pressure has been growing for an independent probe into possible war crimes.

In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a U.S.-backed resolution calling on Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the war.

Update hourly