Australia may investigate Sri Lanka envoy for war crimes

October 17, 2011 03:57

CANBERRA - Australia's government came under pressure on Monday from rights groups and lawmakers to investigate Sri Lanka's top envoy to the country for war crimes, risking a diplomatic row ahead of a summit of leaders from 54 Commonwealth nations in Perth.

The International Commission of Jurists' (ICJ) Australian section has handed police direct and credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Sri Lanka Navy during the last stages of the bloody civil war against Tamil rebels in 2009, The Age newspaper said, citing unidentified sources.

Sri Lanka's Canberra high commissioner, former admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was the navy's eastern and then northern areas commander, as well as chief of staff, in the last months of the war, during which naval ships allegedly fired on civilians as they fled the conflict, the paper said.

"The report ... is extremely serious," said Lee Rhiannon, a senator Australia's influential Greens Party, which backs Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority Labor government. "With a delegation from Sri Lanka, headed up by their President Mahinda Rajapaksa due to arrive shortly in Perth for CHOGM, the Australia government can no longer refuse to take action."

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