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`HRW running smear campaign against Sri Lanka`

Sri Lanka said it is confident of facing the UN Human Rights Council at its next session later this month.

Colombo: Pointing to a smear campaign against it by international rights groups, Sri Lanka on Saturday said it is confident of facing the UN Human Rights Council at its next session later this month as it has a clean slate.

Human rights envoy and minister Mahinda Samarasinghe slammed international rights groups for what he called were attempts to slander the image of Sri Lanka for political gain. Samarasinghe said the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has commenced a smear campaign against Sri Lanka. The HRW in a letter to member states has called for UNHRC to go into action against Sri Lanka.

"This was expected. These organisations are trying to create an adverse opinion against us. It is their planned action leading to each HRC sessions. We have no fears," the minister said.

He said the government had already implemented some of the recommendations of a government-appointed reconciliation panel that looked into the war and the lessons learnt from it, and that action was underway to implement other recommendations.

"You can`t expect all recommendations to be implemented within two months. We will ask for time. It will be our responsibility to implement the recommendations," Samarasinghe said referring to the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) issued in November, and how his government would approach the UN human rights council.

The LLRC was cited as the Sri Lankan response to calls for independent investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both government troops and the LTTE during the last phase of the military conflict which ended in May 2009.

The LLRC report has recommended that allegations of civilian casualties be investigated though it exonerated the troops of direct responsibility of targeting the civilians.

The report has recommended measures to analyse the deep rooted causes of the ethnic strife between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority to ensure reconciliation.

The UNHRC sessions are to commence on February 27 in Geneva, Switzerland and is to continue till March 23rd. While it is not yet clear whether Sri Lanka would present the LLRC report at the council session, top officials have said they were prepared to take the floor and respond to any questions raised by the international community on the report.