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UN accuses Sri Lanka of sabotaging war crimes investigation

The UN rights chief has accused Sri Lanka of sabotaging a UN-mandated war crimes probe into the country’s brutal separatist war by creating a climate of fear and repression.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein accused Colombo of subjecting civil society groups and rights activists to surveillance, harassment and other forms of intimidation.

“A wall of fear has been created that has undoubtedly served to deter people from submitting evidence,” he said in a statement on Friday.

The UN Human Rights Council last March ordered an international investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government troops in the final months of fighting in the civil war, which ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka, which denies any civilian was killed by its security forces, has repeatedly refused to co-operate with the probe, insisting a domestic commission of inquiry can do the job.

Zeid said Sri Lanka was not only not co-operating with the investigation ordered by the UN’s top human rights body but was “continuing (a) campaign of distortion and disinformation”.

The government was also trying “to prevent possible bona fide witnesses from submitting information to the investigating team”, he said, describing it as “an affront”.

“Why would governments with nothing to hide go to such extraordinary lengths to sabotage an impartial international investigation?” he said.

The Sri Lankan government charged earlier this week that the probe had been “unprofessional” and that its approach was “selective and biased” – accusations Zeid flatly rejected.

The UN has estimated up to 100,000 people may have been killed in the separatist conflict between 1972 and 2009.

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