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Tamil groups ask Ottawa to bring Sri Lanka officials to global courts

OTTAWA — Tamil diaspora groups are praising Ottawa's sanctions on Sri Lanka officials, while asking Canada to bring that country to international tribunals.

"The Tamil diaspora has been calling for a new Nuremberg-like tribunal to prosecute the leadership of government of Sri Lanka," Vel Velautahpillai, a board member with the Federation of Global Tamil Organizations, said Monday on Parliament Hill.

Ottawa sanctioned four high-ranking officials earlier this month for alleged human-rights breaches during Sri Lanka's bloody, 26-year civil war with Tamil separatists.

The asset and travel ban included Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who are both former presidents.

The pair oversaw the victory of Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese population over Tamil groups, which came after widespread bloodshed and massacres.

Gotabaya temporarily fled his country last summer after mass protests over living costs, while Mahinda resigned from his post as prime minister last spring.

In reaction to the sanctions, the Sri Lanka government summoned Canada's envoy, and its diplomatic mission in Ottawa insists the Liberals have made arbitrary decisions to appease theTamil diaspora.

"Some of the extreme groups with separatist agendas do not wish to see progress in Sri Lanka, as it will jeopardize their livelihood in Canada," Sri Lanka's deputy high commissioner in Canada, Anzul Jhan, said in an email.

"It is only natural for these groups to be motivated by the Canadian sanctions."

Jhan argued that Ottawa is harming both its own relations with Sri Lanka and her country's internal reconciliation process.

"The sanctions come in the backdrop of tangible and meaningful progress made by the government in addressing issues of accountability and reconciliation, and in strengthening the country's democratic and governance structures," Jhan said.

"Given the significant community of Sri Lankan heritage of all ethnicities, Canada should play the role of peacemaker."

But Tamil groups say Ottawa has set a positive example for other countries, and they are asking the Liberals to start a process to bring senior officials to the International Criminal Courtover alleged crimes against humanity.

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