Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Wednesday a local investigation into allegations of war crimes committed during the island’s separatist conflict would begin by June, vowing to prosecute anyone found guilty.
Sirisena said he welcomed any guidance from the UN Human Rights Council on setting up the probe, amid international pressure for the island to account for alleged atrocities committed during the war which ended in 2009.
“We will start the work of the local mechanism by next month. This will be in line with our own laws,” Sirisena told reporters.
“If anyone is to be found guilty by the investigation we will take action according to our own law,” he said.
The government has brought forward the deadline for starting the probe after saying earlier this month it would be up and running by September when the UN rights council next meets in Geneva.
During a visit to the island this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the government to ensure accountability for war-time atrocities and work towards ethnic reconciliation.
Kerry echoed longstanding demands of ethnic minority Tamils to investigate cases of thousands who went missing or were killed towards the end of the conflict, which claimed some 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.
At the ballot box in January, President Maithripala Sirisena unseated long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse who drew international condemnation over his refusal to probe alleged military abuses.
Rajapakse insisted that security forces did not kill a single civilian while fighting Tamil Tigers who were known for their trademark suicide bombings.
The UN has been investigating possible war crimes for more than a year.
In February, however, the UN postponed its report at Colombo’s request to allow more time for Sri Lanka to complete its own investigation. (AFP)