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Panel to study UN query; deadline to study US report extended

2009-12-28 15:14:20
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President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given legal experts four more months to study a US State Department report cataloging alleged war crimes on the island. A recent query by the UN over remarks by former army chief Sarath Fonseka that some surrendering rebels were killed in cold blood was also being referred to the panel for study.

President Mahinda Rajapakse extended the December 31 deadline of the panel he appointed in November to formulate a response to the US report, which accused Sri Lankan forces of war crimes while battling Tamil separatists.

"The president has... extended by four months the period given to the committee to study and report on the US State Department Report," the president's office said in a statement.

A recent query by the United Nations over remarks by the country's former army chief Sarath Fonseka that some surrendering rebels were killed in cold blood was also being referred to the panel for study, the statement said.

Sri Lanka's foreign ministry has already dismissed the US report as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence."

Sri Lanka has been under international pressure to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes during the final stages of its battle against the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were defeated in May.

Among claims detailed in the US report was the accusation that Tiger leaders were executed after reaching a surrender agreement with government forces.

Fonseka, who is challenging Rajapakse in a January 26 election, has said he was given information about the alleged killing of the surrendering rebels by an unnamed state media reporter embedded with troops.

Fonseka said he himself was away in China at the time of the incident.

Sri Lanka's then foreign secretary Palitha Kohona had earlier said the rebel leaders were killed by their own men while they tried to surrender during the final days of fighting. (AFP)


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