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Sri Lanka slams UN panel to probe war crimes


Colombo : Sri Lanka Wednesday criticised the appointment of a panel by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate allegations of human rights violations during the last months of the government’s war against separatist Tamil rebels.

“The move is unwarranted and unacceptable to a sovereign nation like Sri Lanka,” media minister Keheliya Rambukwella said in a reaction to the panel’s appointment late Tuesday.

Sri Lanka has been facing increasing international pressure to investigate alleged rights abuses committed by both sides before Sri Lanka’s military killed the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, ending a 26-year civil war on the island.

The external affairs ministry was expected to give a detailed reaction on the panel’s set-up, which went ahead despite government opposition to the UN plan.

The three-member panel is chaired by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman and includes Yasmin Sooka, a human rights expert from South Africa, and Steven Ratner, a US lawyer, the UN office here said.

Sri Lanka last month appointed its own commission to investigate events during the last eight years of the conflict with the LTTE.

UN undersecretary general for political affairs Lynn Pascoe visited Sri Lanka last week where he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and visited former combat zones.

He told reporters that the panel would advise the UN chief on how to look into accountably issues of events that took place during the final stages of the military operations.

The UN estimated that 7,500 civilians were killed in the last months of the civil war, a claim denied by the Sri Lankan government.