WASHINGTON (AP) – Sri Lanka’s foreign minister expressed optimism Thursday of winning a delay in the publication of a UN report into alleged war crimes committed in the island nation’s civil war.
Sri Lanka’s new government says it wants time to set up its own judicial mechanism to probe human rights violations that would follow up on the findings of the UN investigation, due in March.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was speaking after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Thousands of civilians are suspected to have died in the final months of the war in 2009 when government forces crushed a quarter-century fight for an ethnic homeland by ethnic Tamil re-bels.
Samaraweera said the decision to approve a delay would lie with the UN human rights com-missioner and the UN human rights council, but said he anticipated “the support of all our friends in the coming months”.
“We have requested a delay so that the report itself can be referred immediately to the domes-tic mechanism we are proposing,” Samaraweera told reporters at the National Press Club in Wa-shington.
Washington’s assent to push back the report, perhaps until September, will be important. It was a US-backed resolution approved by the UN human rights council last year authorised the investigation by the world body.
US officials declined to comment Thursday on the proposal for a delay, which Samaraweera expected would be taken up by a procedural committee of the council next Monday.
Speaking before Thursday’s meeting, Kerry said Sri Lanka had voted in a January election for change, opening up the possibility for greater accountability, respect for human rights and ac-tion against corruption.