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10,000 Tamils protest outside UN

GENEVA – More than 10,000 Sri Lankan Tamils demonstrated outside the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva Monday, accusing the world body of involvement in the "genocide" of Tamils, police said.

An association for Tamils in Switzerland, the Tamil Forum, released a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemning what it called the evacuation of civilians from the troubled Vanni region and their placing in "army detention camps".

"We are not satisfied with some statements issued by the UN and UN agencies concerning this issue," the letter published on the Internet said.

The letter criticised calls for an evacuation of civilians, claiming it would force Tamils into the hands of the Sri Lankan army.

"Moreover, to blame the LTTE (the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) of preventing people from coming out of the area without genuine and independent evidence is sufficient to doubt the integrity and neutrality of an august world institution like the UN," the letter added.

It claimed the UN was "guilty of the culpable complicity in the war of genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Sinhala government".

The United Nations believes 150,000 to 180,000 civilians remain trapped in the combat zone in northeastern Sri Lanka.

The Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Friday she feared both sides could be guilty of war crimes.

There are "legitimate fears that the loss of life may reach catastrophic levels, if the fighting continues in this way," she said in a statement.

"The brutal and inhuman treatment of civilians by the LTTE is utterly reprehensible, and should be examined to see if it constitutes war crimes," Pillay added.

Pillay’s office said more than 2,800 civilians were killed, including hundreds of children, and more than 7,000 injured since 20 January.

The Sri Lankan government later denied charges that troops fired into a safe zone for civilians and said allegations about the extent of the death toll were "unsubstantiated".

The Sri Lankan defence ministry says troops are on the verge of defeating the LTTE rebels who fought for a separate homeland since 1972.

AFP / Expatica