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Sri Lankan FM slams ‘biased’ UN rights report

[AFP, Monday, 31 October 2011 08:00 No Comment]

Gamini Lakshman Peiris speaks during a press conference at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (AFP, William West) Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Sunday condemned a "preposterous" UN-commissioned report alleging war crimes in his country, revealing he stopped Canada raising it at a Commonwealth meeting.

Foreign Minister Gamini Peiris also confirmed Sri Lanka will host the next Commonwealth leaders’ meeting in 2013, saying that none of the 54-nation bloc raised the prospect of moving it during this year’s summit in Perth.

"There was no attempt whatsoever to revisit the issue relating to the venue," he told reporters at the conclusion of the Perth meeting.

Ahead of Perth, Canadian premier Stephen Harper had raised concerns about Sri Lanka hosting the summit due to a UN panel’s allegations that the military massacred civilians in 2009 in the final stages of the Tamil rebellion.

Peiris said the report, commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, relied on anonymous, subjective evidence, dismissing its allegations that tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in the last days of the civil war.

"It is biased, it violates the rudimentary principles of natural justice, we reject it in its entirety," he said.

"We have told all (Commonwealth) delegates of the reasons why we find the report totally unacceptable… it is a travesty of justice and preposterous."

Peiris said Canada had attempted to raise the topic of human rights in Sri Lanka during a meeting of foreign ministers at the Perth summit but he successfully argued it was an inappropriate forum to discuss the issue.

"My submission to the chair and the delegates was that this was entirely inappropriate," he said.

"I said that this was an attempt to politicise the proceedings… my submission was that far from strengthening the Commonwealth, this development would not augur well for the future of the Commonwealth at all."

Peiris said he received support from 15 other countries and "the chair then decided that the matter could go no further".

A number of countries, including Australia and Canada, have called for the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the panel’s report, which Ban forwarded to the rights watchdog last month.

Amnesty International said it was outraged that the Commonwealth bloc, comprising mainly former British colonies, had not pressed Sri Lanka on the issue in Perth and would hold its 2013 summit in Colombo.

"It is an absolute disgrace that Commonwealth leaders have agreed to hold their next meeting in Sri Lanka in spite of its appalling human rights record," Amnesty official Claire Mallinson said.

[Full Coverage]

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