Pope Francis’ Asia tour starts in Sri Lanka, a country still recovering from a 37-year ethnic conflict.
Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena has revealed plans to set up a domestic inquiry into crimes committed during the country’s 26-year civil war, Al Jazeera has learned.
The presidency told Al Jazeera that it would look into allegations of wrongdoing in the final stages of the war, but ruled out the involvement of UN investigators.
“The president said the UN would be consulted, but outside investigators would not be necessary,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent Minelle Fernandez said.
For 26 years the Tamil Tigers, many of them women, fought for an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
The group has been accused of attacking civilians, executing prisoners and recruiting child soldiers. But the Sri Lankan government has long been accused of many of the same crimes.
It is also alleged they ramped up their attacks towards the end of the war, using heavy weapons to fire shells into a specially-created “safe zone”, which contained civilians.
Hundreds of thousands people tried to flee the violence, but the fighting raged around them and civilians remained trapped inside the safe zone until the army defeated the Tamils in May 2009.
Paikaisolthy Saravanmuttu, the executive director at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, told Al Jazeera the move was different to the previous government which had rejected any cooperation or engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
“Some will insist that only international investigation will bring justice, but i think the point needs to be made, that in order to go to an international mechanism, all domestic remedies need to be exhausted.”
“I think they will find that abuses happened on both sides,” Saravanmuttu said.