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Sri Lanka: War abuse inquiries may take 5 years

By Krishan Francis
Associated Press / July 26, 2012
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—Sri Lanka estimated Thursday it may take up to five years to investigate alleged killings of ethnic Tamil civilians by government troops at the end of the country's devastating civil war -- a timeframe criticized as an attempt to outlast international attention.

The government recommended that investigators conclude inquiries into alleged killings within a year and start court proceedings up to four years after that.

Sri Lanka's government, which initially denied any abuses occurred, has come under intense international pressure to investigate allegations of summary executions, kidnappings and other abuses by troops just before they defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.

The rebels fought a quarter-century civil war to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, citing marginalization by majority ethnic Sinhalese.

Lawmaker Suresh Premachandran of the Tamil National Alliance, the largest party representing Tamils, dismissed the plan as one prepared for "international consumption."

He said the five-year timeframe is an attempt to drag on the process until the international community has forgotten the issue.

Presidential spokesman Lalith Weeratunga told reporters the plan shows the government's keenness to move forward.

A U.N. report released last year said government troops deliberately shelled civilians and hospitals and blocked food to people trapped in the war zone and said the rebels recruited child soldiers and held civilians as human shields. It said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict.

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