COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president said Tuesday that he will withdraw the country from any international organization that continuously “targets” the military with allegations of human rights violations during its long civil war.
Speaking at an event marking the 11th anniversary of the defeat of ethnic Tamil rebels during the 26-year war, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said as a former military officer he was aware of the sacrifices made by soldiers, and he will not allow attempts to discredit their dignity.
Sri Lanka in March withdrew from a joint resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council in which it pledged to investigate allegations of human rights violations against both the military and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.
Tuesday’s ceremony was only attended by officials because of restrictions against large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
“In a situation where even leaders of powerful countries have emphatically stated that they would not allow any action against their war heroes, in a small country like ours where our war heroes have sacrificed so much, I will not allow anyone to exert undue pressure on them or harass them,” Rajapaksa said.
“If any international body or organization continuously targets our country and our war heroes, using baseless allegations, I will also not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organizations.“
Sri Lankan troops defeated the Tamil rebels in 2009, ending one of Asia’s longest civil wars at the time.
Government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels are accused of serious wartime abuses, especially in the bloody final months of fighting.
Initial U.N estimates said some 100,000 people were killed in the conflict, however a panel of U.N experts said about 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months alone.
Rajapaksa was a top defense official and played a key role in the victory.