Sri Lanka – Question

Lord Sheikh:

 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the call for investigations to examine whether war crimes have been committed in Sri Lanka.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government endorse European Union calls for an independent inquiry into allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. An inquiry would play an important role in the post-conflict reconciliation process.

We welcome the joint statement by the United Nations Secretary-General and President Rajapaksa underlining the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government of Sri Lanka have agreed to take measures to address those grievances.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. What has happened in Sri Lanka can only be described as a human tragedy. Over 300,000 Tamils were trapped in an area subjected to heavy bombardment, and it is expected that about 20,000 Tamils were killed and over 200,000 Tamils are now in refugee camps. There are perhaps breaches of the Geneva Convention. I am pleased to hear that we are pressing for an independent inquiry, but I would like to ensure that there is transparency and accountability. The second point is—

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, can we ensure that refugees are treated humanely and that there is an inclusive political peace settlement?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that latter point is of great importance. Our immediate concern is for the safety of some 270,000 civilians who fled the fighting and are now being held in camps. We are somewhat encouraged by the fact that the President of Sri Lanka seems to recognise that it is now time to win the peace. He has made gestures of reconciliation. There is no doubt that identifying the nature of the action of the armed forces with regard to the position against the Tamils will need investigation, but we must all hope that the Government set out on the task of reconciliation after such a disastrous series of events.

 

Updated: 03/08/2009 — 3:19 PM