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Campaigners urge UN rights council to probe Sri Lanka

Published on 13/09/2011

Rights campaigners on Tuesday urged the UN Human Rights Council to order a probe into the final months of Sri Lanka's armed conflict, after a report detailing serious violations was transferred to the council.

On Monday, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon sent a UN report accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians in its final offensive against Tamil Tiger separatists to the UN’s rights body.

Ban had said that he alone cannot order an inquiry into the killings — which the Sri Lankan government has strongly denied — but that a forum such as the Human Rights Council could do so.

“When a UN Panel of Experts report concludes up to 40,000 civilians died amid war crimes, the Human Rights Council should feel compelled to act,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“The council should order a full international investigation — anything less would be a shameful abdication of responsibility,” he said.

Amnesty Internationals Asia Pacific Director Sam Zarifi also said that it was “time for the Human Rights Council to act on the panel of experts findings and hold those responsible for massive atrocities in Sri Lanka to account.”

“The thousands of victims have waited long enough,” he added in a separate statement.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Council told AFP that thee report was being circulated among the body’s 47 member states, which would then have to decide how to move forward.

“There is no precedent for this,” he pointed out.

The report published April said that the Sri Lankan army killed most of the tens of thousands of civilian victims in 2009 but both sides may be guilty of war crimes.

The panel’s report — angrily opposed by the Sri Lankan government — painted a barbarous picture of the offensive on the Tamil enclave in the north of the island that ended a three-decade war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka has slammed the UN report as “biased” and launched a major international campaign against it.

While the United States and other Western nations have backed calls for an inquiry, diplomats said Sri Lanka would call on Asian allies such as China to help block any action at the rights council.

Sri Lanka had complained about the move to send it to the rights council before Ban’s spokesman even made the official announcement.