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Sri Lanka says U.N. war crimes report threatens peace efforts

[Reuters, Thursday, 28 April 2011 19:13 No Comment]

Sri Lanka on Wednesday said the publication of U.N.-appointed panel’s report blaming it for thousands of civilian deaths at the end of its civil war threatens peace-building efforts and is motivated by the political agenda of "interested parties."

The United Nations on Monday published the findings of a three-member panel Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed to advise him on "issues of accountability" from the 2009 end of Sri Lanka’s 25-year war with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

"The public release of the report at this stage is divisive, and disrupts our efforts to reinforce peace, security and stability in Sri Lanka," the Indian Ocean nation’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

"It feeds into the political agendas of interested parties," the statement said.

Although the ministry did not identify those parties, Sri Lanka has long accused rights watchdogs and pro-Tamil Tiger groups in the Diaspora of fabricating atrocities to discredit the government and shift attention from the Tigers’ own crimes.

The panel, which did not have an investigatory mandate, blamed the victorious Sri Lankan forces for killing tens of thousands of civilians, and said there was "credible evidence" that war crimes were committed by both sides.

Ban on Monday said he could not order a probe, which the panel recommended and Sri Lanka has refused as a violation of its sovereignty, without Colombo’s consent or a decision from member states to push it ahead.

With Chinese and Russian support on the U.N. Security Council, Sri Lanka is unlikely to face any international probe, since it is not a member of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Since accusations arose at the end of the war in the first half of 2009 that government troops were killing civilians in artillery bombardments, Sri Lanka has denied targeting non-combatants, although it has acknowledged some were killed.

The report was leaked in Sri Lankan papers earlier this month, and the government has called it fraudulent and biased.

It also said the world body was seeking to pre-empt the findings of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

Already, some findings of the LLRC made based on the testimony of war-affected citizens were being acted on, the External Affairs Ministry said.

"The objective of the government is to provide urgent relief and to engender a sense of confidence among the people affected by the conflict and give impetus to the reconciliation process," the statement said.

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