Alleged War Crimes (Sri Lanka)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:17 am on 16th June 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 11:17 am, 16th June 2010

I shall make sure that an inquiry looks into the issue the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

The establishment of a lessons learned and reconciliation commission is a step in the right direction, but to be credible it needs to show itself to be a strong, independent voice. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to draw on the experience of other countries that have set up successful post-conflict commissions. I said very clearly to the Foreign Minister today that, no matter how painful they are, experiences in South Africa, Rwanda and, indeed, in our country have shown that the only way to deal properly with reconciliation is to be honest and open and to get absolutely to the heart of the matter. There must be proper public consultation, sufficient time to examine evidence and a clear and realistic mandate.

In particular, we hope that the commission can investigate fully the recent allegations of war crimes. We also encourage the Government to address urgently the issue of witness protection in Sri Lanka, mentioned by the hon. Lady. That will be essential if the commission is to get to the truth in its investigations. We recognise that it is for the Government of Sri Lanka to take the lead in addressing allegations of war crimes, but we also support the UN Secretary-General's proposal for a panel of experts to advise on accountability issues. We trust that the Government of Sri Lanka will co-operate fully with the Secretary-General's panel to help their own domestic process.

We believe that lasting peace will come about only when Sri Lanka addresses the underlying causes of the conflict and ensures that all communities are treated with fairness and respect. Following elections earlier this year, the President and Government of Sri Lanka have a renewed political mandate. We urge them to use the mandate to take meaningful steps towards long-term, inclusive political action. We welcome the commitment of the President in his joint declaration with the Indian Prime Minister on 9 June to develop a political settlement that is acceptable to all communities, in which the people of Sri Lanka can

"lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights."

The United Kingdom stands ready to support Sri Lanka to make good on those commitments, and to take decisive steps to establish a long-term political solution to the island's divisions.

I hope that the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK can also play a role. The diaspora's support following the humanitarian crisis undoubtedly helped to alleviate the hardship of many individuals and their families, and we thank them for their contribution. I hope the diaspora will find meaningful ways to engage with communities across Sri Lanka in pursuit of a lasting and agreed political solution.