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Sri Lankan protesters besiege UN building to end human rights violation probe

By Devaki

London, July 7 (ANI): Protesters are carrying out demonstrations outside the U.N. offices in Sri Lanka to force the world body to cancel its probe into alleged human rights violations during the civil war.

According to the BBC, most of the UN staff managed to leave after police tried to break the blockade in Colombo, before being asked by the Government to leave themselves. Several senior staff were still trapped inside till reports last came in.

Hundreds of flag-waving protesters, led by Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, descended on the UN offices on Tuesday and burned an effigy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outside the buildings.

The sit-in protest besieged the compound yesterday and trapped U.N. staff inside for hours. They also threatened to go on a hunger strike to press their demands.

Sri Lanka has said that an inquiry is not required, as the troops 'did not commit war crimes'.

Meanwhile, the government has refused to grant visas to the UN advisory panel's three members, saying the investigation violates its sovereignty.

A UN spokesman, however, has assured that the organisation is doing all it can to ensure the safety of its Colombo staff.

"The UN has registered its strong objections to protests organised outside UN offices... which prevented staff and visitors from entering or leaving the premises," BBC quoted UN spokesman Farhan Haq, as saying.

"The government has provided assurances for the safety and security of our staff and for their full access to their offices. We will be closely monitoring developments and trust these commitments will be honoured," he added.

Earlier, the UN had said that about 7,000 civilians died in the last five months of the war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan troops, and alleged that both the parties committed crimes at the end of the war.

A panel, formed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month, will examine whether Sri Lankan forces committed atrocities against minority Tamils when the civil war was ending last year.

BBC also stated that the protesters, many of them Buddhist monks, say their action will continue until the UN disbands the panel. The UN said there were no plans to disband it.

Meanwhile, the detained ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka, who led the security forces in fighting the Tamil Tigers, has said he is not afraid to face the UN panel.

"As the then army commander I can candidly say the war was waged in line with international covenants and conventions. I fully support the military in this case," he said. (ANI)

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