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Rights council gets report on Sri Lanka deaths

[AP, Tuesday, 13 September 2011 07:22 No Comment]

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a report by U.N. experts who concluded that tens of thousands of people were killed in the last five months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, primarily by government troops, to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday.

Ban said in April when the report was released that he would welcome a mandate from the Human Rights Council, Security Council or General Assembly to launch an international probe into allegations of possible war crimes at the end of the 26-year war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the Sri Lankan government was informed that the report was sent to the rights council and to U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay, both based in Geneva, but that it declined to respond.

Instead Sri Lanka "has produced its own reports on the situation in the north of Sri Lanka, which are being forwarded along with the (U.N.) panel of experts report," Nesirky said.

Ban’s referral came the day the Human Rights Council opened its three-week session, where Sri Lanka is expected to be discussed.

The panel, which gathered evidence for 10 months, concluded that "most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling." It alleged that Sri Lankan troops shelled civilians in a no-fire zone and targeted hospitals in their push to finish off the Tamil Tigers.

The rebels were accused of holding civilians as human shields, using child soldiers and killing people who tried to leave areas under their control.

Responding to the panel’s recommendation that the United Nations review its own actions during those final months, Nesirky said the secretary-general asked former U.N. Population Fund chief Thoraya Obaid to conduct the review "which should begin soon."

The Sri Lankan government denounced the U.N. report and called for "an independent international" investigation of what it called credible allegations that both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels committed serious violations in the months before the war ended in May 2009.

Last week, Amnesty International urged the United Nations to launch an independent investigation of alleged atrocities in the final stages of the war, saying Sri Lanka’s own probe into the matter was flawed.

In a 69-page report, Amnesty International concludes that Sri Lanka’s government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission wasn’t likely to deliver justice for victims and their relatives. It claimed the commission failed to use witness testimony to identify alleged perpetrators, didn’t protect witnesses who spoke before it, and made no recommendations for bringing individuals to justice.

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