Sri Lanka to block visits by UN panel probing war allegations

Chandi Dharmaratne

June 24, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka will ban visits by the three-member United Nations panel investigating alleged human rights abuses in the final months of the island’s civil war, a senior minister said Thursday. Troops finally wiped out the separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas in May last year after decades of ethnic bloodshed, and the government has denied repeated allegations that thousands of civilians were killed in the fighting.

“We will not issue them with visas. We will not allow them into this country,” External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s appointment on Tuesday of the panel to advise on any violations of international human rights was “totally unnecessary,” Peiris said.

Peiris said the UN panel was “unhelpful” as Sri Lanka had announced its own commission into the end of the war and post-conflict ethnic reconciliation.

“We feel the panel is an unnecessary interference. The government should be given a free space to make its own findings.”

The UN panel was set up after international pressure for an independent probe into allegations that Tamil civilians were killed by government troops and that surrendering rebels w