UPDATE 1-US says Sri Lanka refuses visa for official after war crime accusations

Wed Feb 5, 2014 7:37pm IST

* U.S. envoy for women's issues had hoped to visit next week

* U.S., planning rights resolution, says visa denied

* Government says not true, dates for visit not convenient (Adds Sri Lankan reaction)

By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO, Feb 5 (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.

However, Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry said the embassy's statement "was not a correct representation of the facts", adding the dates for the proposed trip had not been convenient.

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 put forward a third U.N. human rights resolution against Sri Lanka in March to address the allegations because its rights climate has been worsening.

The U.S. Embassy 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.

"HUMAN SHIELDS"

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.

The External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said the relevant U.S. authorities were advised by the ministry that the dates proposed for the visit were not convenient.

"Rescheduling of a visit does not amount to refusal of a visa. The position was fully and clearly explained to the U.S. Embassy," the ministry said in a statement.

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

A U.N. 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.

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," he said. (Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Ubkiwitus wrote:
That there IS a large “Tamil diaspora’ – caused by the civil war in Sri Lanka is an indicator that something there made them emigrate … a not very ‘civil’ war.

Feb 05, 2014 10:31pm IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Culling Plans

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Drug Approval

Drug Approval

Epirus, Ranbaxy win India approval for arthritis drug copy.  Full Article 

Fresh Demand

Fresh Demand

As mining curbs bite, India offers market to glut-hit iron ore.  Full Article 

Root Out 'Bad Apples'

Root Out 'Bad Apples'

RBI chief calls for cleaning up of banking system.  Full Article 

Android One

Android One

Google launches $105 Android One; eyes low-price smartphone boom.  Full Article 

Cognizant Deal

Cognizant Deal

Cognizant to buy TriZetto for $2.7 billion to boost healthcare business  Full Article 

India-Vietnam Ties

India-Vietnam Ties

India tightens Vietnam defence, oil ties ahead of China Xi's visit.  Full Article 

Antitrust Crusade

Antitrust Crusade

INSIGHT - "Mr. Confession" and his boss drive China's antitrust crusade .  Full Article 

Inflation Eases

Inflation Eases

Aug WPI inflation eases to near five-year low of 3.74 percent  Full Article 

Kashmir Floods

Kashmir Floods

Disease threatens as Kashmir flood waters turn fetid  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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