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Rights council censure triggers anger

India also under fire for supporting UN on war crimes

Rights council censure triggers anger
Relatives of dead and missing from Sri Lanka's civil war hand in a petition at the United Nations Human Rights Council offices in Colombo
AFP, reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

March 22, 2013

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Sri Lankan politicians and media have been angered by a UN resolution calling for a probe into alleged war crimes.

A ruling coalition partner urged Colombo to reconsider ties with nations that supported Thursday's censure move at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

The US-initiated move was passed with the support of 25 nations, including India.

The Council pressed Colombo to "credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances," stating that Sri Lanka had failed to adequately address serious charges of war crimes.

Rights groups have said up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces in the final months of fighting, a charge denied by Colombo.

The country’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has cleared the military of violations against civilians, saying abuses by soldiers only occurred on an individual basis.      

The state-run Daily News, reporting the vote under the headline, "Sri Lanka rejects intrusive resolution," said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be dismantled.

"Sri Lanka should spearhead that demand with the support of like-minded countries," the paper said.

Sri Lanka’s envoy to the rights council, Mahinda Samarasinghe said his government rejects the validity of the resolution as it went beyond the UN mandate.

He said the resolution at the UNHRC is clearly unacceptable as it is intrusive, bears misinterpretations and is dismissive.

Sri Lankan anger to the resolution was also directed toward India for supporting the resolution.

"India joins USA to beat SL," the privately-run Daily Mirror said on its front page.

Technology Research and Atomic Energy minister Champika Ranawaka released a statement urging the government to block trade concessions to Indian business interests after Thursday's vote.

"We strongly urge the government not to grant any trade or diplomatic concessions to India which does not respect our sovereignty," said Ranawaka, who leads the National Heritage Party.

Sri Lanka later announced plans to take back part of a strategic oil storage depot from a state-run Indian firm.

Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said there were provisions to take back tanks that were not being used by the Indian Oil Company's local unit, Lanka IOC, in the northeastern port of Trincomalee.

"If they are not using these tanks, the CPC [state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation] wants to take them back and put them to good use," he said.

The Indian government however said it had been given assurances that no decision had been taken.

Sri Lanka’s National Peace Council, meanwhile, said the resolution was a strong warning to the government and signifies a hardening of the international community’s stance on human rights.

“The government needs to revise and improve its action plan and today there is a criticism that the present government in particular has set about dismantling the independence of public institutions and further politicized the public service,” said Dr Jehan Perera, the council’s executive director.

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