Australia vetoes war crimes prosecution against Rajapaksa

The government on Tuesday vetoed an attempt to bring a private war crimes prosecution against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa while he is visiting Australia this week. Rajapaksa arrived in the country on Monday ahead of a 53-nation summit in the west coast city of Perth on Friday.

Sri Lankan-born Australian citizen Arunachalam Jegatheeswaran had lodged a war crimes indictment against the president in a Melbourne court accusing Sri Lankan forces and Rajapaksa of committing war crimes during their final 2009 offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The attempted prosecution comes as Australian police investigate war crimes allegations submitted by the International Council of Jurists rights group against the president and against the Sri Lankan ambassador to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, a navy admiral during the war. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said in a statement Tuesday that he has refused to give the necessary consent to carry out a prosecution against the president because it would breach domestic law and Australia's obligations under international law.

Rajapaksa enjoyed diplomatic immunity from arrest and from the Australian criminal justice, McClelland said. Rights groups and countries including the US have repeatedly urged Sri Lanka to investigate allegations stemming from final months of the 26-year war with Tamil Tigers separatists.

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