US: Sri Lanka refuses visa for State Dept official after war crime accusations

COLOMBO Wed Feb 5, 2014 12:52am IST

Related Topics

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka has refused a visa request for a U.S. State Department official, the U.S. Embassy said on Tuesday after Washington signalled it would propose a U.N. resolution against the South Asian state over alleged war crimes.

Tensions rose after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal voiced frustration on Saturday over Sri Lanka's failure to punish military personnel responsible linked to reported atrocities in a civil war that the Colombo government won in 2009 against separatist Tamil rebels.

Biswal, speaking after a two-day visit to Colombo, said Washington would table a third U.N. human rights resolution against Sri Lanka in March to address the allegations because its human rights climate has been worsening.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo said the Sri Lankan government had turned down a visa application for Catherine Russell, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, and it called the decision "regrettable".

Russell had been scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in line with her mandate to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially and economically.

"The United States will continue to raise important issues related to gender-based violence, the impact that the conflict had on families (particularly female-headed households), the need for greater economic empowerment by women, and for greater political participation by women across Sri Lanka," the embassy said in an emailed statement.

Biswal said that during her visit people in Sri Lanka's former northern war zone referred to a range of human rights abuses including the disappearance of civilians.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, which finally crushed the rebellion of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) 26 years after it erupted, has rejected calls for an international inquiry, saying this would be aimed only at pleasing a large Tamil diaspora living in Western countries.

Senior U.S. officials declined to say what would be in the planned resolution, but embassy officials said it might repeat the call for an international investigation in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan officials were not immediately available for comment on the reported visa refusal. But Rajapaksa, speaking at Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, said unidentified foreigners were trying to use "northern people", a reference to ethnic Tamils, as "human shields".

"The invaders always came to our country shedding oceans of crocodile tears. They interfered..., putting forward claims to protect human rights, establish democracy and the rule of law.

"I see the attempts to level charges of war crimes against us in Geneva today as the triumph of those who are not in favour of peace ... These are not founded on peace, fair play or justice," Rajapaksa said.

Sri Lanka has rejected U.S. criticism of its human rights record as "grossly disproportionate".

A United Nations panel has assessed that around 40,000 mainly Tamil civilians died in the final few months of the war. Both sides committed atrocities, but army shelling killed most victims, it concluded.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

FILED UNDER:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Expanding Ties

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Interview with Bulgari CEO

Interview: Bulgari CEO

Bulgari CEO: we shouldn’t have left India so we’re back  Full Article 

U.S. in Afghanistan

U.S. in Afghanistan

Obama signs order expanding U.S. Afghanistan role - NY Times  Full Article 

Available For Remake

Available For Remake

Bollywood finally wants to pay the price for remakes  Full Article 

Economic Reform

Economic Reform

Long "to do" list for Modi as clock ticks on reform  Full Article | Related Story 

E-books Case

E-books Case

Apple $450 mln e-book settlement gets final court approval  Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Happy Ending" is old wine in an older bottle  Full Article 

Athletes of Year

Athletes of Year

Frenchman Lavillenie, Kiwi Adams are Athletes of Year.  Full Article 

Japan Politics

Japan Politics

Japan PM seeks referendum on "Abenomics" in snap election.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage