Monday, March 08, 2010

Sri Lanka rejects call for war crimes investigation by the U.N.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected a proposed U.N. war crimes advisory panel on Sri Lanka as "totally uncalled for and unwarranted," his office said Saturday.

Rajapaksa's press office said the president and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discussed over the phone a Feb. 25 letter from Ban indicating his intention to set up a panel of experts to advise Ban on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa was "emphatic" in his objections and said the appointment of the intended panel "would compel Sri Lanka to take necessary and appropriate action in that regard."

"Sri Lanka looked forward to treatment as per the U.N. Charter that provides equal treatment to all members of the U.N. while respecting the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of states," Rajapaksa said.

"No such action has been taken about other states with continuing armed conflicts on a large scale, involving major human catastrophes and causing the deaths of large numbers of civilians due to military action," Rajapaksa added.

Senior officials in Colombo said on condition of anonymity that Rajapaksa hinted the United Nations had caved into pressure by some international nongovernmental organizations and the British government in considering setting up an advisory panel.

He alleged Britain's Labour government was looking for Tamil votes in the forthcoming British election, but a British High Commission official in Colombo said Britain has consistently supported the U.N. secretary general's call for an "accountability process" into allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law during the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka's Vanni district last May.

"This has been our consistent position since May last year when the U.N. secretary general discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan government," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The United Nations, which has consistently accused the Tamil Tiger rebels of using civilians as a human shield during the final phase of the war, has estimated at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the last four months of the fighting.

The Sri Lanka government described the final phase of the 26-year war as a "humanitarian operation" to free civilian hostages held by the Tamil Tigers.

© Associated Press

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