South Asia

Sri Lankan foreign minister denounces UN rights chief

Sri Lankan troops
Image caption Both the army and the Tamil Tigers are accused of committing abuses

The Sri Lankan government has hit out against UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, accusing her of hounding the country on rights issues.

The indignation was expressed by new Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris.

It came a day after Ms Pillay repeated her view that an international body was needed to look into war crimes allegations in the Sri Lankan context.

Prof Peiris told the BBC of Sri Lanka's "frustration" at her continued backing for an international probe.

'Hindrance'

"We think that this course of action is unfair. It is even oppressive. It is as though some people will not rest until they are successful in harassing Sri Lanka," he said.

He said that the attitude of "pursuing Sri Lanka" was not only unfair but also "repugnant to the basic values and principles that are enshrined in the UN system".

Image caption Prof Peiris argues that any probe is bound to be unfair on the government

"We think any foreign intervention is not only unwarranted but will be a source of hindrance, a detriment to the work of the commission as it gets under way," he said.

There have been allegations from international campaign groups and some Western countries that both Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels may have committed war crimes last year, indiscriminately or deliberately harming civilians.

Colombo denies doing this and is specially incensed by any call for international inquiry because with most of the rebel leadership dead, any probe would by definition be focussed on the government side.

On Monday Ms Pillay noted that the Sri Lankan government has now set up its own reconciliation commission but told the UN Human Rights Council that issues of accountability on the island really needed international attention.

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