NEW DELHI — A top State Department official is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on Friday, just three days after the United States announced that it would again seek a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council pressing for an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, is expected to meet with government officials, members of the opposition and others in Colombo, the capital. She is also expected to travel to Jaffna, a city in the heart of the Tamil-dominated Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
The visit comes as relations between the United States and Sri Lanka have become increasingly frosty, largely because, nearly five years after the end of a nearly 30-year civil war in which government forces battled the Tamil Tigers — a notoriously brutal insurgent group — the Sri Lankan government has shown little appetite for any robust investigation into possible war crimes.
Keheliya Rambukwella, a government spokesman, said in a phone interview that Ms. Biswal’s visit was an opportunity for the United States to “see firsthand the progress Sri Lanka has made in its reconciliation efforts.”
Two resolutions pressing the Sri Lankan government to investigate war crimes have already been passed by the Human Rights Council, but this time the United States may ask that an independent international investigation be conducted, one that does not depend on the government, human rights advocates said.
The Northern Provincial Council, now dominated by Tamils after elections in September, voted this week for just such an independent investigation, a move that was criticized by government officials in Colombo.
Ananthi Sasitharan, a member of the council, said she was eager to meet with Ms. Biswal during her visit to Jaffna. Ms. Sasitharan said the council’s support of an international investigation reflected the demands of its constituents.
“We want to present our case” to Ms. Biswal, Ms. Sasitharan said in an interview. “Her visit to Jaffna will be greatly welcomed.”
Videos and pictures of what appear to be executions of civilians have leaked out of Sri Lanka in recent years, adding to a mountain of evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government killed 40,000 people, many of them civilians, in the war’s final stages in 2009.
Lalith Weeratunga, the permanent secretary to the Sri Lankan president, is in Washington this week to lobby against a further resolution from the Human Rights Council. Mr. Weeratunga said Wednesday that the government needed several more years before any international investigation into suspected war crimes could be started.
“After 26 years of conflict, we want to make it a sustainable peace,” he said, according to local news media reports.
Mr. Weeratunga said that if Sri Lanka were forced into undertaking such an investigation, the government would extend the inquiry back to the 1980s, when India conducted military operations in the country. Indian peacekeeping troops have been accused by some human rights groups of committing abuses during operations against the Tamil Tigers, who refused to lay down arms after an Indian-mediated peace pact. Revisiting such allegations “will upset our relationship with India,” Mr. Weeratunga was quoted as saying in the reports.
Alan Keenan, a senior analyst at the nonprofit International Crisis Group, said India’s support for a resolution calling for an international investigation could be crucial.
“The U.S., Britain and others have come to a conclusion that for the truth to be established, it needs to be done by an outside body,” Mr. Keenan said.
The end of the insurgency has been a boon for Sri Lanka’s economy as well as the political fortunes of the dominant Rajapaksa family. Roads have been rebuilt, tourists have returned, and the pervading sense of unease that gripped the country for decades has largely evaporated.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is popular in Sri Lanka because of this turnaround, but an independent investigation of conduct during the war would be terribly risky for him, said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a public policy research group in Colombo.
“There is no way he can allow an investigation because an international probe that asks chain-of-command type of questions will lead directly to the Rajapaksas themselves,” Mr. Saravanamuttu said in an interview. “Literally and figuratively, President Rajapaksa must live and die in power.”
Whether the country’s restive north will remain peaceful without further reconciliation efforts is a crucial question. The army continues to occupy thousands of homes and administer its own farms, factories and resorts on appropriated land, for which the government has paid little or no compensation.
Thousands are still missing. S. Illanagai, a mother of two, is still looking for her husband, who was forcibly conscripted by the Tamil Tigers and who surrendered to government troops at the end of the war. “Since then we have not seen or heard from him, and I came to Colombo hoping that the authorities here would give me a clearer answer,” she said Thursday. “They claim to have no information on his whereabouts.”