Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been accused of war crimes during the Sri Lankan war, is due to speak at the
War crimes lawyers seek arrest of Sri Lankan president in
Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit expected to trigger protests over his government's treatment of civilians during war with Tamil Tigers
• Owen Bowcott and Sam Jones
• guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 November 2010 20.30 GMT
Lawyers working for Tamil activists are attempting to obtain a war crimes arrest warrant against
Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers last year amid humanitarian protests about the treatment of civilians trapped in the war zone, is due to speak at the
The visit comes as Tamil supporters claim to have acquired a video showing a former Tamil Tiger colonel being interrogated by Sri Lankan forces. His family allege he was killed after surrendering.
Rajapaksa is also expected to meet the defence secretary, Liam Fox. Last year the
The Sri Lankan head of state's visit, postponed from last month, is likely to trigger mass protests. Tamil demonstrators were at Heathrow airport for his arrival on Monday evening; more are expected in
Last year thousands of Tamils blockaded
Sen Kandiah, founder of the British Tamil Forum, an umbrella group representing Tamils in the UK, told the Guardian
"We know that at least 40,000 civilians were killed at the end of the war. This man was the commander in chief and he's coming to speak to the
Another Tamil activist, Suren Surendiran, said that if Rajapaksa had immunity as head of state then arrest warrants would be sought against military members of his entourage. Graham Williamson of the civil rights group Act Now has called for a boycott campaign of Sri Lankan goods.
That would effectively stop the private actions brought against visiting foreign officials that have deterred visits by Israeli officials. A similar tactic was used when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister against the former Chilean president, General Augusto Pinochet. He was arrested and held under house arrest on charges of crimes against humanity, before being released on health grounds without being charged.
Last month David Cameron endorsed calls for an independent investigation into the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. He told the Commons
A spokesman for the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, which represents Rajapaksa, denied that he had cancelled his trip to the UK last month becuse of fears that he might face an arrest warrant.
"He had to give a keynote speech at the UN," the spokesman said, "and visit
Rajapaksa last spoke at the
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has established a three-man committee to investigate ways of dealing with the war crime allegations.
A spokesman for Fox said
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 20.30 GMT on Tuesday 30 November 2010. A version appeared on p26 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Wednesday 1 December 2010. It was last modified at 00.20 GMT on Wednesday 1 December 2010.