President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday warned that Sri Lanka will not hesitate to withdraw from any international forum if the country's "war heroes" were targeted or harassed as he addressed the 11th anniversary of the end of the over three-decade long civil war against the LTTE.
Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which led an armed rebellion for over three decades against the Sri Lankan government to set up a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern province of the island nation was defeated by the Sri Lankan Army on May 19, 2009.
"Our troops were up against the world's most feared terrorist group who paid no respect to the law. Even the world's most powerful countries have told that they would not subject their troops to be harassed by anyone," said Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the military campaign then as the top defence ministry bureaucrat.
"As such, in a small country like ours where our war heroes have sacrificed so much, I will not allow anyone or organisation to put pressure on them and harass them. We will not hesitate to withdraw from any organisation or agency if our war heroes are targeted," Rajapaksa said at the War Heroe's Day, marking the 11th anniversary of the military victory over the LTTE.
Sri Lankan troops under the president's brother Mahinda Rajapaksa's presidency faced war crimes allegations for their conduct in the final phase of the bloody armed campaign which ended on May 19, 2009.
The UN rights body has passed three successive resolutions since 2013 calling for war crimes investigations on both government troops and the LTTE.
The previous Mahinda Rajapaksa government refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mechanism to probe the war crimes allegations against the troops.
With his defeat in the 2015 election, his successor Maithripala Sirisena's government agreed to cooperate with the UNHRC and even co-sponsored the last resolution in September 2015.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was highly critical of the Sirisena government's co-sponsoring of the resolution, and had vowed to withdraw from the UNHRC resolutions in the run up to the presidential election held in November, which culminated in his landslide victory.
The formal end to the bloody separatist war was signalled on May 19, 2009 with the discovery of the body of the feared LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakaran. Sri Lanka's human rights record, particularly over the impunity enjoyed by
law enforcement officers, has been the subject of international condemnation.
The UN Human Rights Council has called for an international probe into the alleged war crimes during the military conflict with the LTTE.
According to the government figures, around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts, including the war with Lankan Tamils which claimed at least 100,000 lives.Lanka's human rights record, particularly over the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officers, has been the subject of international condemnation.
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