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Human Rights Watch declines invitation

Hundreds of demonstrators call for the end of genocide against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka near the White House in Washington on May 18, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
Hundreds of demonstrators call for the end of "genocide" against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka near the White House in Washington on May 18, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo

NEW YORK, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch says it won't accept an invitation to testify before a Sri Lankan government commission on war crimes.

Human Rights Watch was joined by the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International in rebuffing the invitation to testify before Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and in a statement said the commission lacks credibility.

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The commission lacks the ability to advance accountability for war crimes, and Sri Lanka still operates under a state of emergency that criminalizes political speech, Human Rights Watch said in the statement.

As many as 100,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka's civil war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which started in 1983.

"Thousands of civilians were killed in the last few months of the war as a result of grave violations of international law by both government and LTTE forces," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka demands an independent international investigation."

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa established the commission in May in an attempt to deflect calls for an international investigation of alleged war crimes, the statement said.

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"This commission is nothing more than a cynical attempt by Sri Lanka to avoid a serious inquiry that would bring genuine accountability," Human Rights Watch said.

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