Hundreds of people, including Buddhist monks, protested in Colombo yesterday against a visit by United Nations officials to discuss human rights issues relating to the country’s long-running civil war. At least 300 protesters rallied in front of the UN office, demanding an end to what they say are UN attempts to undermine the reconciliation process by accusing security forces of committing war crimes. The three representatives from the UN Human Rights Commission met with government officials and Tamil politicians and toured former war zones during their visit this week. A UN report last year found that government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels both committed numerous rights abuses during the civil war and immediately before its end in 2009. It said at least 7,000 people were killed in the last five months of the conflict. The report was followed by a resolution urging the Sri Lankan government to investigate alleged rights abuses on both sides. The protesters yesterday said the country, and the armed forces in particular, are being unfairly criticized. “If the UN takes steps to punish armed forces members for allegedly committing war crimes and violating human rights, it will sabotage the peace now existing in the country,” said Buddhist monk Hadigalle Vimalasara Thero who was among the protesters. “LTTE terrorists did not honor any accepted norms of human rights but after the war the government rehabilitated more than 11,000 terrorists, removed mines, resettled people and rebuilt infrastructure,” he told ucanews.com. External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris had earlier told parliament that the government had invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, to visit Sri Lanka. The purpose of the visit is for her to assess the steps taken to implement the recommendations of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, he said. The visit by the three UNHCR officials this week was to lay the ground work for her visit, he added.
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