Sri Lankan president urges rethink on rules of war

President Rajapaksa addressing the UN General Assembly in New York President Mahinda Rajapaksa says there are "serious problems" with the rules of war

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The Sri Lankan president has called for a rethink on international rules governing the conduct of war.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, President Mahinda Rajapaksa stopped short of explicitly calling for the Geneva Conventions to be changed.

Diaspora groups, meanwhile, have renewed calls for an international tribunal over the alleged war crimes committed by the security forces.

The Sri Lankan government denies its side committed any war crimes.

Speaking 16 months on from the military victory over the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, Mr Rajapaksa called the rebels brutal, highly organised and effective.

Start Quote

The asymmetrical nature of conflicts gives rise to serious problems which need to be considered in earnest by the international community”

End Quote Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri Lanka President

In Thursday's address, he said the Tigers had rejected attempts at dialogue with "contempt".

The president said Sri Lankans had faced the "atrocities of terrorism" for decades, and that the country lost nearly 100,000 lives.

It was therefore, he said, worth examining the capacity of international humanitarian law to meet today's needs.

This law is embodied in the Geneva Conventions, which among other things govern how prisoners of war should be treated and how civilians should be protected in conflict.

President Rajapaksa said that these laws had evolved for conflicts between states.

But last week his attorney general went further, saying the rules of war were "inadequate" and suggesting a new protocol on combating non-state actors.

As Mr Rajapaksa arrived in New York, a pro-separatist Tamil diaspora group called for a tribunal to be set up to prosecute alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lankan forces.

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