COLOMBO: Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena has acknowledged that few troops were responsible for committing war crimes at the behest of politicians during the three-decade-long civil war with the Tamil tigers.
According to the UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the security forces during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime that brought an end to the brutal conflict with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelamin 2009.
The LTTE ran a nearly three-decade separatist campaign leading to a bloody war with the Sri Lankan security forces.
Sirisena had earlier vowed to defend the troops against warcrimes charges leveled against them.
"There is something that you should accept according to your conscience. There were things outside the control of the military. They were carried out by a few in the military to appease politicians. These were illegal, against democracy and the freedom of our people," he said.
"You know that investigations are underway into a small number of officers who acted at the behest of politicians.
Those who are in custody will be freed if they are innocent.
"I hear allegations from (opposition) political stages that this is a witch-hunt of war heroes. I strongly reject those allegations," he said, adding that the military should clear its name.
Sirisena's reference was to the former regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. His administration faced warcrimes charges with UN Human Rights Council passing resolutions.
Since Rajapaksa's defeat, several incidents of military excesses have come to be highlighted with several military men under arrest and later given bail as part of the proceedings.
During the Rajapaksa's regime, the soldiers were prevented from facing the legal process and the UN's call for independent investigations were dubbed as attacks against Sri Lanka's sovereignty.