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17 January, 2010 - Published 14:12 GMT

Sri Lanka 'guilty' of war crimes

The Sri Lanka government was found guilty of war crimes, a peoples tribunal in Ireland has said.

In its preliminary findings, the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PTSL) that conducted hearings from 14 to 16 January in Dublin has also concluded that the Sri Lanka government is guilty of crimes against humanity.

However, the-pro Tamil Tiger groups’ accusation that the government carried out Tamil genocide at the last phase of war between the security forces and the LTTE needs to be investigated, it said.

“Harrowing evidence, including video footage, was submitted by eye-witnesses of the use of heavy artillery and phosphorous munitions, and of the continuous violation of human rights by military activity to a panel of ten international jurors over two days,” the PTSL said in a statement.

'Kangaroo court'

A member of the convening committee, Dr. Jude Lal Fernando told BBC Sandeshaya that even members of Sri Lanka military have provided the PTSL with evidence of war crimes.

The Sri Lanka government however has denied the findings.

Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, described it as a ‘Kangaroo court’.

Any substantial evidence found by the US State Department, for example, would be looked into by the Sri Lankan government, he said, but it has no desire to respond to the PTSL.

The PTSL is an initiative by the Ireland peace process supported by the University of Dublin and Dublin City University.

The hearings were conducted in public as well as in camera to protect the identity of key witnesses.

The PTSL, chaired by Francois Houtart, also accused the international community, UK and the USA in particular, of being instrumental in the break down of the peace process between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers.

The Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka has urged the government to allow the UN to conduct an inquiry into the war crimes and to release all internally displaced people and former combatants.