Sri Lanka says asked by UN to answer new war crime charges

December 21, 2009 (AFP) – The United Nations has asked Sri Lanka to explain allegations by a former army general that surrendering Tamil rebel leaders were killed in cold blood in mid-May, the government said on Monday. The presidency in Colombo said the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, sought explanations on what had happened to three rebel leaders and their families who wanted to surrender.

“The government is making a careful study of the UN Rapporteur’s letter, prior to a formal response, and any action that may be necessary,” the president’s office said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, former army chief Sarath Fonseka said that he had been informed by a state media reporter that the defence minister, who is also the president’s brother, had wanted all surrendering rebels wiped out.

Sri Lanka recently staved off attempts by Western nations to launch a UN war crimes probe into the country’s 37-year ethnic conflict that ended in May when the leaders of the Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in a major offensive.

A Russian and Chinese veto at the UN torpedoed attempts to launch an investigation, but the new allegations could strengthen the case