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Sri Lanka says UN concerns about general "unethical"

[AlertNet, Wednesday, 15 February 2012 08:02 No Comment]

(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s U.N. mission on Tuesday dismissed as "unfair and unethical" concerns raised by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay about the appointment of a Sri Lankan army general to an advisory panel on peacekeeping.

Pillay said she had informed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of her misgivings about General Shavendra Silva, Sri Lanka’s deputy U.N. ambassador, who commanded the Sri Lankan army’s 58th Division during the final assault against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

"We find it difficult to understand the concerns being articulated at present, on the basis of unconfirmed allegations and accusations," Sri Lanka’s U.N. mission said in a statement.

"This is unfair and unethical," it said. "Certainly not consistent with any notion of fair play."

A U.N.-sponsored panel said in a report it had found "credible evidence" that the military killed tens of thousands of civilians in the last months of Sri Lanka’s 25-year war against the LTTE in 2009 and that both sides had committed atrocities.

Silva is named in that report as the commander of one of "six major battalions (that) were active in the final stages of the war."

The Indian Ocean island nation has come under pressure from Western governments and human right groups to account for war crimes they suspect were committed as the army closed in on the LTTE, who retreated to a narrow strip of coast in northeastern Sri Lanka along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The U.N human rights commission maintains "a list of individuals who are suspected of committing human rights violations and I have addressed a letter of concern to the secretary-general about this individual," Pillay said of Silva.

Silva was appointed to the advisory panel on peacekeeping by the Asia Group, which consists of U.N. delegations from Asia and the Middle East, not by Ban himself, U.N. officials have said.

"The selection of the members of the group is beyond the secretary-general’s purview," said Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky. "It’s a matter for member states."

Sri Lanka contends the U.N. panel’s report on possible war crimes committed by its army simply repeats fabricated charges made by the Tamil Tigers and that its soldiers acted in accordance with international law.

The Sri Lankan government has vowed to investigate itself.

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