Lankan war report is a whitewash: Rights group

The war report takes no responsibility for civilian deaths or for any alleged war rules` violations.

Colombo: An international rights group
today called Sri Lanka`s report on its 26-year civil war an
attempt to whitewash growing evidence of alleged government

Two years after the conflict ended, Sri Lanka conceded
for the first time this week that troops caused civilian
deaths in the last months of fighting against Tamil Tiger

But its war report takes no responsibility for those
deaths or for any alleged violations of the rules of war, New
York-based Human Rights Watch said.

"This is just the latest and glossiest effort to
whitewash mounting evidence of government atrocities during
the fighting," the group`s Asia director, Brad Adams, said in
a statement.

Sri Lanka has been under increasing international
pressure to allow for an independent investigation into
alleged human rights violations by both troops and rebels,
which a UN experts panel said could amount to war crimes.

The 161-page report released yesterday by the Sri
Lankan Defense Ministry reverses two years of government
insistence that its troops adhered to a "zero civilian
casualty policy."

However, it denies allegations that troops committed
rights violations and executed prisoners, and says the
civilian deaths were unavoidable given the magnitude of the
fighting and ruthlessness of the opponent.

It does not say how many civilians may have been
killed, though the UN panel has said tens of thousands perished
in just the last months of the war.

The report says the government was forced to go to war
after unsuccessful attempts to broker peace with the
independence-seeking rebels, and that its military operation
followed international laws while accusing the rebels of
abuses including using civilians as human shields and
conscripting child soldiers.

Human Rights Watch urged international governments to
reject the "factually challenged report" and renew calls for
government accountability, saying alleged rebel abuses did not
justify violations by government security forces.

The government`s report "is yet another feeble attempt
to convince the world, despite growing evidence to the
contrary, that government forces committed no crimes."

The troops are alleged to have deliberately shelled
civilians in a no-fire zone, targeted hospitals and blocked
food and medical aid, according to the UN panel.

Bureau Report

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