Friday, June 25, 2010

Sri Lanka to block visits by UN probing war crimes

By Mel Gunasekera (AFP)

Sri Lanka will ban visits by the three-member United Nations panel investigating alleged human rights abuses in the final months of the island's civil war, a senior minister said Thursday.

Troops finally wiped out the separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas in May last year after decades of ethnic bloodshed, and the government has denied repeated allegations that thousands of civilians were killed in the fighting.

"We will not issue them with visas. We will not allow them into this country," External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's appointment on Tuesday of the panel to advise on any violations of international human rights was "totally unnecessary," Peiris said.

He said Sri Lanka had announced its own commission into the end of the war and post-conflict ethnic reconciliation.

"We feel the panel is an unnecessary interference. The government should be given a free space to make its own findings," he said.

The UN panel was set up after international pressure for an independent probe into allegations that Tamil civilians were killed by government troops and that surrendering rebels were executed in cold blood.

It will be chaired by Marzuki Darusman from Indonesia, the UN's special envoy for North Korea, and hopes to complete its work in four months.

When the panel was named, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky emphasised it had a mostly consultative role, and that "primary responsibility for investigating rests with the authorities of Sri Lanka".

However many diplomats see the UN's move as a precursor to a full-blown war crimes investigation

The UN itself has said that at least 7,000 Tamil civilians perished in the first four months of 2009 before the government secured final victory over the Tigers -- who as recently as 2006 controlled one-third of the island.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said last month the Sri Lankan government had killed thousands of its civilians by shelling "no-fire zones" in the last months of the war.

The ICG said the military encouraged hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians to move into government-declared "no-fire zones" and then subjected them to "repeated and increasingly intense artillery and mortar barrages."

"This continued through May despite the government and security forces knowing the size and location of the civilian population and scale of civilian casualties," the ICG reported.

The group said it had collected eyewitness statements as well as hundreds of photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documents from multiple sources to support the charges.

Sri Lanka is extremely sensitive about criticism of its hardline war policy, which it views as having successfully brought peace to the island.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has always rejected calls for an independent probe and in March warned Ban that he would take "appropriate action" if a UN panel was set up.

Sri Lanka managed to stave off censure at the UN Security Council last year thanks to the support of Russia and China, close allies and key suppliers of military hardware to the island.

The government last week held official celebrations to mark the defeat of the Tamil Tigers defeat, with Rajapakse delivering a speech insisting that his soldiers did not kill a single civilian.


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1 comment:

dilip said...

Mr.Peiris knows well what happened to the 7000 srilankans during the last phase of the war against the terrorists.he is a proffessor.he is obviously smarter than other srilankans.but he wants to stay in power,so he will lique anyones boot just to stay there.poor man,he is a human at the end ! but he is not a professor of HUMANITY.humanity is in the blood,it doesn"t come that many thousands of singhalese,thamul and muslim SRILANKANS we have lost because of selfish politicians,god bless SRILANKA!!!!

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