Sri Lanka slams UN over war probe criticism

2014-11-08 13:24
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Colombo - Sri Lanka's government on Saturday accused the United Nations' rights chief of vilifying Colombo after the government was slammed for sabotaging a UN-mandated investigation into the country's brutal separatist war.

Colombo took strong exception to a statement by UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein accusing Sri Lanka of having created a climate of fear and repression to prevent civilians providing information to the probe which it rejects as an unwarranted interference.

"It is a matter of deep concern to note that you, as a high official of the UN system, have resorted to the use of intemperate language to attack and vilify a sovereign member of the UN," said the letter to Zeid which was released to reporters in Colombo Saturday.

It denied that Colombo made any attempt to prevent witnesses submitting evidence. However, Colombo has said it will not allow the investigators to enter the country, leaving them to entertain written submissions.

Sri Lankan police have reported the arrest of a man who was allegedly attempting to collect witness accounts from minority Tamils to be submitted to the war crimes probe.

Last month, Colombo also slapped tough restrictions on foreigners, including journalists, travelling to the former war zone saying the authorities feared non-nationals could create discord among ethnic groups.

The restrictions have been criticised by rights groups which also say that individual freedoms were under attack in the island five years after the end of the separatist war.

"A wall of fear has been created that has undoubtedly served to deter people from submitting evidence," Zeid said in his statement Friday.

The UNHRC in March ordered a probe into allegations that up to 40 000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops in the final months of the island's ethnic war, which ended in May 2009.

Sri Lanka, which denies any civilian was killed by its security forces, has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the probe, insisting a domestic commission of inquiry can do the job.

The UN has said that despite Sri Lanka denying access to its investigators, there was a wealth of information about alleged atrocities committed by both sides to the conflict.

The UN has estimated up to 100 000 people may have been killed in the separatist conflict between 1972 and 2009.

Read more on:    un  |  unhcr  |  sri lanka

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