Sri Lanka press slams ‘neo-imperial’ war crime vote

UN experts have accused the Sri Lankan military of killing civilians in their final offensive against the Tamil rebels (AFP, Ishara S.Kodikara) Sri Lanka’s media reacted angrily Friday to a US-led resolution demanding a war crimes probe and said the island had done well to go down fighting at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The state-run Daily News said the 24 nations which voted in favour of the resolution urging a credible investigation into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s battle against Tamil rebels in 2009 were being destructive.

The countries that backed the resolution were making "a desperate attempt to disempower and undermine Sri Lanka and they are trying every trick in the bag to further this dark design," the Daily News said.

It reported Thursday’s vote at the UNHRC under the headline: "Might overrules right."

The privately-run, but pro-government Island newspaper commended the hawkish administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse for putting up a fight in Geneva.

"The cornered badger bravely fought the mastiffs of neo-imperialism, savage in the fray, and went down fighting yesterday," the Island said. "It certainly was a defeat as good as victory."

The paper also took a swipe at Sri Lanka’s traditional ally India which turned its back on Colombo during the council’s contested vote.

"India has been a loser in Geneva, though it helped the US win," the Island said. "India failed to carry Asia, or at least South Asia with it. In other words, Sri Lanka has won against India in Asia."

Tabling the resolution, the US said Colombo had been given three years to hold its own probe into allegations of war crimes, but "given the lack of action… it is appropriate" that the 47-member UNHRC pushed it to do so.

Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians died in the final months of Colombo’s military campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers, who waged a bloody decades-long campaign for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.

Colombo has denied its troops were responsible for any non-combatant deaths, but UN-mandated experts have accused the Sri Lankan military of killing most of the civilian victims in their final offensive against the rebels in 2009.

The United Nations estimates some 100,000 people died during Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict between 1972 and 2009.

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