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Commonwealth leaders urged to boycott summit

September 13, 2013

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An international human rights group is urging leaders of 54 countries belonging to the Commonwealth not to attend its heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka in November because the country has not held anyone responsible for alleged war crimes in the country’s civil war.

Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, said that Sri Lanka should be “shunned not rewarded” and asked even those countries deciding to attend the summit of former British colonies should send a low-level delegation as a public message of dissatisfaction.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella rejected the criticism, blasting Human Rights Watch as “totally biased.” He said the group’s statements were always “against Sri Lanka” and that the group was guided by “somebody else’s agenda.”

Two weeks ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said democracy was being undermined and the rule of law eroded in Sri Lanka, with the country increasingly becoming an authoritarian state despite the end of a quarter-century civil war four years ago.

Pillay visited Sri Lanka to assess its human rights situation before reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month.

“Attending a summit in Sri Lanka so soon after the U.N. rights chief decried a worsening situation sends the wrong message to the government and to victims seeking justice,” Adams said in a statement released Friday.

Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009 after government troops crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels who fought to create a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamils. A U.N. report said government troops may have killed 40,000 Tamil civilians just in the final phase of the war.

The U.N. Human Rights Council in March passed a resolution calling on Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

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