International probe needed after Sri Lanka report: UN rights

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The UN human rights chief said Tuesday that an international inquiry was needed after a damning UN report on the killings of thousands of civilians during Sri Lanka's 2009 final assault on Tamil separatists.

"The eyewitness accounts and credible information contained in this report demand a full, impartial, independent and transparent investigation," said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Unless there is a sea-change in the government's response, which has so far been one of total denial and blanket impunity, a full-fledged international inquiry will clearly be needed," she added.

In its report released on Monday, a UN panel said the Sri Lanka military killed most of the civilian victims of the offensive but concluded that both sides may be guilty of war crimes and ordered Colombo to conduct a "genuine" inquiry.

Pillay noted that the way the conflict was conducted "challenged the very foundations of the rules of war and cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians."

"I hope the disturbing new information contained in this report will shock the conscience of the international community into finally taking serious action," she said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said after the publication of the report that he lacked the authority to order an international probe into the killing of tens of thousands of civilians.

The report noted that both the government's troops as well as the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had committed acts that constitute "a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace."

Sri Lanka did not immediately respond to the report but, after parts of the report were leaked to the Sri Lankan media, the government slammed it as "biased" and "preposterous."

President Mahinda Rajapakse has called for this year's May Day rally to be turned into a demonstration against any UN investigation.

© 2011 AFP

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