Sri Lankans protest against U.N. rights chief's visit

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 26, 2013 9:07 AM
Sri Lankans protest against U.N. rights chief's visit

COLOMBO (Reuters) - About 100 Sri Lankan demonstrators led by Buddhist monks protested on Monday against U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, saying she should get out of the country and not criticize its human rights record.

The protesters gathered at the U.N. head office in the capital, Colombo, as Pillay began a seven-day fact finding mission on Sri Lanka's rights record.

"She should visit countries like Iraq and Afghanistan which have become slaughter-houses," said protesting Buddhist monk Ittekande Saddatissa.

Sri Lanka battled separatist guerrillas from the minority Tamil community from 1983 until finally defeating them in 2009.

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of the war, a U.N. panel said earlier, as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the rebels fighting for an independent homeland.

The U.N. panel said it had "credible allegations" that Sri Lankan troops and rebels both carried out atrocities and war crimes, and singled out the government for most of the responsibility for the deaths.

Sri Lanka has come under international pressure to bring to book those accused of war crimes and boost efforts to reconcile a polarized country.

But it has rejected the accusations of rights abuses.

Pillay, a South African national of Indian Tamil origin, said she had come to Sri Lanka to assess the human rights situation.

"I have not come here to criticize, I have come hear to raise human rights concerns," she told reporters on Sunday.

"I'm not writing my own statute, I'm looking at the framework that was also developed by Sri Lanka so if I raise criticisms its weather they comply with those standards."

In a resolution in March, the U.N. Human Rights Council urged Sri Lanka to carry out credible investigations into the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people. Many Western nations, including Britain and Canada, have also demanded an independent inquiry.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel)