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Sri Lanka criticizes UN human rights probe

[AP, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 09:34 No Comment]

Sri Lanka criticized the United Nations for appointing a panel of experts to look into alleged human rights abuses committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war, saying Wednesday it is "totally unacceptable."

The three-member panel appointed by the U.N. chief on Tuesday is headed by a former Indonesian attorney-general Marzuki Darusman, also the U.N.’s special rights investigator for North Korea.

Its job is to advise U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on alleged violations of international rights and humanitarian laws during the war’s final stages. The panel aims to get cooperation from Sri Lankan officials and to complete its advisory work within four months.

The appointment of the panel came as Sri Lanka is facing growing international criticism for not examining abuses allegedly committed during the last phase of the civil war that ended in May 2009, when government forces crushed the rebels who had fought for a separate state in the north for ethnic minority Tamils.

The U.N. says more than 7,000 civilians died in the last five months of the conflict. Rights groups say they have photographic and video evidence and have called for war crime investigations. Sri Lankan officials have refused calls to establish an international tribunal.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka’s government spokesman and minister Keheliya Rambukwella said they have "shown our displeasure" over this appointment and called it "totally unacceptable and unwarranted."

Rambukwella said it is "regrettable" to note the U.N. had appointed this panel "at a time when president Mahinda Rajapaksa himself appointed a commission" to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the war.

Rajapaksa last month appointed the "Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission," which will also recommend compensation for victims of the bloody conflict that claimed an estimated 80,000-100,000 lives.

The European Union on Tuesday warned Sri Lanka will lose preferential trade status unless the country commits to improving its dismal human rights record within six months.

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