An international panel says a Sri Lankan commission probing human rights violations is ineffective and fails to meet international standards.

The outside panel on Monday accused the government commission of moving slowly, operating without transparency, and providing inadequate witness protection. Sri Lankan officials have rejected the panel's criticism.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa created the rights commission to investigate abuses by both the military and Tamil Tiger rebels after the killing of 17 aid workers in 2006.

The international panel was created last year to oversee the commission's work.

Also Monday, thousands of Sri Lankan ethnic Tamils from all over Europe gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to demand recognition of an independent Tamil state.

The protest coincided with the start of a week-long session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

In another development, Britain Foreign Officer Minister Kim Howells condemned human rights abuses during a visit to Sri Lanka. Howells delivered a letter to President Rajapaksa from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging an end to the conflict.

Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland in the north and east of the island nation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.