South Asia

Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa calls for UN report rally

Tamil civilians in Kilinochchi (July 2010) during a visit by President Rajapaksa
Image caption Many Tamil people say their loves ones have vanished

Sri Lanka's president has called for mass protests against a UN report said to allege that war crimes were committed at the end of the civil war.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the claims were not new but called for a "show of strength" against the report.

Leaked excerpts suggest that Sri Lankan soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels committed serious violations as the civil war came to an end in 2009.

Troops crushed the rebels in May 2009 after 26 years of bloody conflict.

Responding to a leak of the reports in a Sri Lankan newspaper, Mr Rajapaksa told party officials May Day gatherings should be used to protest.

"All these days we did not demonstrate our strength, but now on May Day we will show our strength," he said.

The UN-appointed inquiry gathered evidence for 10 months and submitted its findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon several days ago.

"The [Sri Lankan] government says it pursued a 'humanitarian rescue operation' with a policy of 'zero civilian casualties.' In stark contrast, the panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations were committed [by both sides]," the report says, according to excerpts quoted by the Associated Press.

Sri Lanka's government, which also received a copy of the report, described it as "fundamentally flawed and patently biased," adding that it was "presented without any verification", AP reported.

Mr Rajapaksa's comments, made to members of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party, are his first personal comments on the leak.

Both sides were accused of atrocities in Sri Lanka's long conflict. The Tamil Tigers were fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the island's north and east.

As many as 100,000 people were killed, including some 7,000 in the final stages of the war, the United Nations estimates.

The BBC has heard numerous allegations from Tamils that their relatives are missing, among them a number of senior rebel fighters.

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