News / Asia

UN Political Chief Visits Sri Lanka Amid Human Rights Concerns

The United Nations' political chief is in Sri Lanka, as concerns persist concerning human rights violations following the end of the nation's 25-year war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe visited Tamil families Wednesday around the northern town Mullaitivu.  The Sri Lankan government is resettling Tamils in villages after months in military-run displacement camps.

The civil war ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

Pascoe held talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Gamini Peiris.  He is also scheduled to meet with opposition political leaders and media representatives.

Also Wednesday, Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi welcomed the government's plan to set up a commission to investigate possible war crimes and urged transparency.

Akashi, whose country is one of Sri Lanka's largest aid donors, said Japan is watching to see how the commission will proceed.  Akashi said it is not up to other countries or international organizations to tell the Sri Lankan government how to handle this "highly complicated and sensitive area." The Japanese envoy is on a six-day visit to the country, his 20th trip to Sri Lanka.

Two senior U.S. foreign policy advisors are also in Sri Lanka.  Samantha Power, special assistant on multilateral affairs and human rights, and David Pressman, national security council director on war crimes and atrocities, met with President Rajapaksa in Colombo Tuesday.

Mr. Rajapaksa has so far rejected rights groups' calls for a United Nations probe into alleged human rights violations during the final phase of the country's civil war.

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