Sunday, October 25, 2009

UN rights office backs Sri Lanka war probe

The office of the UN human rights chief renewed its call Friday for a probe into alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lankan troops and Tamil rebels during the final stages of the country's civil war.

"We still believe that something like the Gaza fact-finding mission is certainly warranted given the widespread concerns about the conduct of the war in Sri Lanka," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Colville was referring to the controversial probe by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone into the recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Goldstone's fact-finding mission was set up by a vote in the 47 member state UN Human Rights Council, which has so far not taken up the Sri Lankan issue.

The United States on Thursday urged Sri Lanka to probe allegations of war crimes committed by government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels towards the of their decades-old conflict earlier this year.

The call followed publication of a US State Department report that contained claims of atrocities committed by both sides.

Colville underlined that the US report did not constitute the necessary full inquiry but he acknowledged that it "catalogues in quite some detail specific events that have been reported."

"It seems that more clarity is likely to emerge about who did what to whom and whether or not war crimes and crimes against humanity and other very serious war crimes were committed by one or both sides," he added.

The UN human rights office also urged the Sri Lankan government to honour pledges that it would allow displaced Tamils out of government-run camps and seek to reduce discrimination against the Tamil minority.

"The issue of some 240,000 - 250,000 displaced people living in what are in effect internment camps continues to be of great concern," said Colville.

"We hope the government takes serious actions to fulfill these commitments in the very near future," he added.

Sri Lanka's ultra-nationalist government has so far rejected calls for a war crimes probe.


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