Sri Lankan president postpones British visit: official
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has postponed a planned visit to Britain, due to a busy schedule rather than fears of a arrest over alleged war crimes, a foreign ministry official said Friday.
Rajapakse had planned to address the Oxford Union during his tour later this month.
But the Times of India reported Friday that the president had called off the trip fearing arrest under British law over alleged war crimes against Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lankan External Affairs ministry director general Bandual Jayasekera brushed aside the report, saying Rajapakse was busy with ceremonies linked to the inauguration of his second term on November 19.
"The president is busy with engagements right now, and the visit was postponed till December, not cancelled. The new dates have not been fixed and the British authorities were informed about the change," Jayasekera said.
Under British law, war crimes against humanity can be prosecuted even if they were not committed in the country.
The Times of India said the Global Tamil Forum, who has been in the forefront of anti-Rajapakse campaign in Britain, were planning to push for the president's arrest on British soil.
Jayasekera did not comment on the issue.
Sri Lanka has come under the spotlight for alleged war crimes committed during the final days of the 37-year separatist conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in May 2009.
International rights groups have said that up to 30,000 ethnic Tamil civilians perished in the final months of the conflict.
Sri Lanka has denied any civilians were killed by its troops and blamed Tamil Tigers for using them as human shields. Colombo has also rejected an independent international probe and refused to allow UN investigators into the island.
However, Sri Lanka's own war-panel began hearings in August, with a mandate to assess why a ceasefire in February 2002 broke down in 2008, that led to renewed fighting.
© 2010 AFP