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Sri Lanka: UN rights chief’s language went too far

November 8, 2014

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka on Saturday accused the U.N. human rights chief of using “intemperate language” to vilify a member state when he said the island nation was attacking the integrity of the world body’s investigation into alleged wartime abuses.

In a letter Saturday to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Sri Lanka’s permanent United Nations representative, Ravinatha Aryasinha, also said double standards were being applied against Sri Lanka.

Aryasinha’s letter followed a statement by Hussein on Friday accusing Sri Lanka of carrying out a distortion and disinformation campaign against the U.N. investigation and of attempting to prevent witnesses from submitting evidence.

“It is a matter of deep concern to note that you, as a high official of the U.N. system, have resorted to the use of intemperate language to attack and vilify a sovereign member of the United Nations. Further, you have chosen to cast aspersions and denigrate a democratically elected government,” Aryasinha wrote.

The U.N. human rights body is investigating alleged abuses committed during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war, which ended in 2009 when government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lanka has rejected the investigation and refused to allow investigators into the country. Hussein said in his statement that the government’s refusal to participate in the investigation raised concerns about its integrity, questioning why a government with nothing to hide would be uncooperative.

Aryasinha, however, said that his country’s refusal to participate was not tantamount to concealing information. “The government of Sri Lanka has steadfastly maintained that it owes to the country’s dignity not to subject its people to an investigation that does not conform to even the minimum requisites of justice and fair play,” he said.

An earlier U.N. report said up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last months of the civil war, and accused both sides of serious human rights violations. It said the government was suspected of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals and blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone. The rebels were accused of recruiting child soldiers and holding civilians as human shields and firing from among them.

After resisting calls for an internal investigation for years since the war’s end, the government appointed a three-member commission to inquire into cases of war disappearances. It recently added three foreign advisers to increase the panel’s credibility.

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