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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sri Lanka pro-government protesters demand end to UN panel
Hillary Stemple at 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] Sri Lankan pro-government protesters on Tuesday demanded the UN end plans to have an international panel [JURIST report] investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the last months of the Sri Lankan civil war [JURIST news archive]. The protesters, led by Sri Lankan cabinet member Wimal Weerawansa, demonstrated outside UN offices in the country's capital, preventing UN workers from leaving the building and warning that the workers would not be permitted to leave until the panel is disbanded. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] appointed the panel last month to investigate alleged wartime abuses of civilians by both the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in the hopes that the Sri Lankan government will hold those responsible for the worst of the violence accountable [statement] for their actions. Police at one point attempted to disperse the protesters [AP report], but allowed the protests to continue after Weerawansa ordered the police to stop the dispersal. The protesters indicated that they believed the UN panel was put in place [Al Jazeera report] to facilitate war crimes charges against members of the Sri Lankan military who they say acted admirably in fighting terrorism within the country. The government has rejected implementation of the panel and indicated it would refuse entry [JURIST reports] to its members. They view the panel as a violation of Sri Lankan sovereignty and have cited an internal commission appointed in May [press release] as sufficient to deal with reconciliation issues related to the violence within Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has faced numerous allegations of human rights violations originating from incidents that took place during the final months of the civil war. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced it had acquired new evidence [JURIST report] supporting allegations of war crimes. Also in May, the International Crisis Group (ICG) [official website] accused Sri Lankan security forces of war crimes [JURIST report], claiming that the violence of the 30-year civil war escalated in January 2009, leaving thousands more dead than projected by the UN. The UN panel has been asked to examine "the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka" and make the information available to the Sri Lankan government for further action on the matter. The panel will also report on the implementation of the human rights accountability statement [text] that both Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] agreed to last May, but which Rajapaksa subsequently rejected [JURIST report].




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