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UN rights body presses Sri Lanka war crime probes

By Frank Jordans

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 5:25 a.m. MDT

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks, who are supporters of the government, protest outside the Indian High Commission urging India not to support a proposed U.N. resolution calling on Sri Lanka to probe wartime rights abuses, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 21, 2012. The monks marched to the Indian Embassy on Wednesday with a large banner saying that support for the resolution would hurt the long-standing friendship between the two countries. The U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to vote on the resolution this week.

Eranga Jayawardena, Associated Press

GENEVA — The U.N.'s top human rights body Thursday called on Sri Lanka to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the country's 26-year conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The U.N. Human Rights Council approved a U.S.-backed resolution that urged the South Asian nation to probe allegations of summary executions, kidnappings and other abuses, but stopped short of calling for an international investigation.

The 47-nation council passed the resolution with 24 countries in favor, 15 against and eight abstentions.

Sri Lanka and its allies on the 47-member council had fiercely resisted the resolution, saying it unduly interfered in the country's domestic affairs and could hinder its reconciliation process.

The head of Sri Lanka's delegation to the council, Cabinet Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, insisted before the vote that his country had been a "role model" for others in dealing with the aftermath of the conflict, which ended in 2009.

Samarasinghe called the resolution "misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed," and directed much of his ire toward the United States, which had tabled the draft before the Geneva-based council.

"Those who live in glass houses are best advised to exercise caution before throwing stones," he said.

But human rights groups and ethnic Tamils in exile welcomed the vote.

"The Human Rights Council's vote demonstrates broad international dissatisfaction with Sri Lanka's accountability efforts in the three years since the end of the war," said Juliette De Rivero, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch in Geneva.

John Heilprin contributed to this report.

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