News / Asia

    Sri Lanka Slams UN Rights Panel

    Sri Lanka has slammed the creation of a panel by the United Nations to advise on alleged human rights violations in the country during the final stages of the civil war, which ended last year.   

    Sri Lankan government spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella calls the creation of the three-member panel by the United Nations "totally unacceptable".

    The panel, appointed Tuesday, will advise the U.N. Secretary-General on whether human rights violations took place during the civil war that ended last year with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.

    The United Nations says more than 7,000 civilians died in the final stages of the war.  Human rights groups have blamed the rebels and the military for these deaths.

    Sri Lanka names own panel

    Rambukwella says it is regrettable the United Nations has appointed an advisory panel at a time when the Sri Lankan president has established a commission to investigate such allegations.    

    "It is highly unwarranted for an outside organization on their own to make assessments and make enquiries, and make investigations," he said. "We are very unhappy about it.  We are a sovereign nation.  We do not like anybody from outside trying to infringe into our sovereignty."  

    Human rights activists charge Sri Lanka is not serious about investigating wartime abuses, and pressure has been mounting on the government to conduct an independent probe into these allegations.

    EU warning

    Tuesday, the European Union warned Sri Lanka will lose its preferential trade status unless it commits to improving its human rights record.

    But Sri Lanka sees the mounting pressure on the issue of war crimes in a different light.

    Rambukwella fears that sympathizers of the former Tamil Tigers, also known as the LTTE, could benefit from it.  Although the Tamil Tigers have been wiped out, the government remains wary about efforts by Tamil groups overseas to revive the guerrilla movement.

    "It could also be part of the activities of the diaspora which is operative outside Sri Lanka in order to regenerate LTTE activities here," Rambukwella said.

    The head of the recently appointed U.N. panel, former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman is familiar with Sri Lanka.  He was part of an international team appointed to observe a Sri Lankan government commission on atrocities, but resigned in 2008 saying the commission did not meet basic minimum standards.  

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