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CHOGM inaction angers Amnesty

CHOGM inaction angers Amnesty

A leading human rights group has expressed outrage at the failure of Commonwealth leaders to press Sri Lanka over allegations of war crimes at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government…

A leading human rights group has expressed outrage at the failure of Commonwealth leaders to press Sri Lanka over allegations of war crimes at this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

In the lead up to CHOGM, the International Commission of Jurists Australia and the NSW Young Lawyers brought to light allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by government forces during the final months of the civil war which ended in 2009.

Despite the allegations, CHOGM leaders failed to seriously query Sri Lanka over the allegations, with the only reference to the allegations coming briefly from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as well as the Canadian delegation.

Sri Lanka insists it will go ahead and host the next CHOGM, to be held in 2013.

"It is an absolute disgrace that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to hold their next meeting in Sri Lanka in spite of its appalling human rights record," said Amnesty International's national director, Claire Mallinson.

"They are allowing war crimes to go uninvestigated, unpunished and unaccounted for. The Australian Government as host and other members of the Commonwealth have missed a crucial opportunity to show leadership on human rights."

Amnesty International is joining calls for a full independent investigation into the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war, when it's believed tens of thousands of civilians were killed as they were trapped between the army and the Tamil Tigers.

A UN report released earlier this year found government forces were responsible for most of those deaths, and that they had deliberately shelled hospitals and Red Cross aid ships.

This is in addition to the ICJA report, confidential copies of which were provided to Gillard, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland on 14 October.

For the past two years, NSWYL has worked jointly with the ICJA to take witness statements from Sri Lankan Australians who bore witness to atrocities committed as the civil war drew to a close.

Amnesty International is urging Australia and other nations to show greater political will to bring alleged war criminals to justice.

"Considering the atrocities, Julia Gillard simply raising the issue of human rights with the Sri Lankan President is woefully inadequate," said Mallinson.

"Commonwealth leaders have failed a critical moral challenge - standing up for the tens of thousands of victims of this brutal conflict."

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