Protests at UN office in Sri Lanka over war panel

July 6, 2010 (AFP) – Protesters led by a Sri Lankan cabinet minister surrounded the United Nations office in Colombo on Tuesday to protest at a UN panel set up to probe war crimes allegations. Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa shouted slogans as protesters broke through a police barricade guarding the office, witnesses said.

“We will not leave. We will sit down and protest here until the secretary-general withdraws the panel,” Weerawansa told about 1,500 cheering supporters.

Sri Lanka has refused to cooperate with the panel that was named by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month to advise on “accountability issues” during the war between government forces and the Tamil Tiger separatists.

The Tigers were defeated in May 2009 after decades of conflict and the UN has said that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the first four months of last year. Many diplomats see the UN panel as a precursor to a full-blown war crimes investigation.