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UN Calls for War Crimes Investigation in Sri Lanka

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The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for an independent, international investigation of possible war crimes committed during the last few months of the war in Sri Lanka. The UN agency says there should be a full inquiry into what did or did not happen during the final stages of the country's long-lasting civil war.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says too many questions related to the last stages of the war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels remain unanswered.

UN Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville says something like the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission is warranted, given the wide spread concerns about the conduct of the war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

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

Tens of thousands of people were killed during Sri Lanka's 25 year-long civil war. An estimated 6500 people were reportedly killed and 14,000 wounded during the last few months of the war earlier this year.

In May, the UN Human Rights Council held a special session on the situation in Sri Lanka. The Council blamed war atrocities on the Tamil Tiger rebels and exonerated the government of similar crimes. It rejected demands for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the war.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who disagreed with this decision, is once again calling for an investigation.

On a related issue, spokesman Rupert Colville says the situation of one-quarter of a million displaced Tamils living in internment camps continues to be of great concern.

"Sri Lanka committed itself to opening up, and dealing properly with the displaced and other victims of the war, as well as dealing with some of the underlying problems relating to discrimination against the Tamil minority. So we hope the government takes serious actions to fulfill those commitments in the very near future," he said.

Colville calls this is an almost unimaginable situation for children and other civilians to have to live through for even one day, let alone months on end.

He says the UN Human Rights Office urges the Sri Lankan government to release the Tamils from their restrictive situation in the camps, so they can return to their homes to lead a more normal life.