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* UK will pursue international inquiry if Sri Lanka fails to set up own into alleged war crimes
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 02:08 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 04, Colombo: The United Kingdom will pursue an international inquiry into the alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan troops during the final stages if war if Sri Lanka fails to set up its own inquiry.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague made this remark in response to a question raised in the UK's House of Commons Tuesday.

"We will pursue this at the Human Rights Council in March. If the Sri Lankan Government have not set up an inquiry of their own by then-so far, they have refused to do so-we would favor an international inquiry that is independent, credible and thorough," Hague said.

He said the UK will discuss with other countries in the UN Human Rights Council how best to do that and what it will propose to do in detail.

Speaking of UK's declaration on the preventing sexual violence, the Secretary of State said Sri Lanka has not yet signed the declaration.

When asked what steps UK would take to get Sri Lanka to sign the declaration, Hague said Sri Lanka is one of the hardest countries to convince about the initiative since, one of the provisions of the declaration is that there will be no amnesty in peace agreements for crimes of sexual violence and that there will be real accountability for what happened in the past.

"It is easy to see why the Sri Lankan Government do not want to embrace those issues, but we will keep on raising them with them," the Secretary said.

Addressing the issue of sexual violence in conflict-affected states Hague said he discussed this issue with the local non-governmental organizations and civil society representatives to learn more about it and gave a speech in Colombo at a special event.

"We will continue to raise this issue in Sri Lanka and other conflict-affected states, where such matters are controversial and sometimes historically difficult, and to gather the maximum possible support ahead of next June's global summit," he said.

When asked to outline the specific measures that were agreed with the Sri Lankan Government following his recent trip to attend the CHOGM, Hague said the UK has called on the Sri Lankan authorities to investigate in an independent and credible manner the allegations of sexual violence, including the allegations that it was committed by Sri Lankan forces during and after the recent conflict.

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that in the absence of an independent investigation, we will press for an international investigation. We will continue to put that case. Sri Lanka has not yet stated its support for our declaration on ending sexual violence in conflict, but we will continue," the Foreign Secretary added.

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