Ban Ki-moon recalls envoy in Sri Lanka

July 9, 2010 at 1:01 AM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, July 9 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled his envoy in Sri Lanka because of protests there against a U.N. panel that is to look into war time rights abuses.

The U.N. chief also ordered the closure of the U.N. Development Program's regional center in Colombo, as Sri Lankan Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa -- who is leading the protest against the U.N. panel -- planned a hunger strike in front the office, U.N. News reported.

A statement from Ban's spokesman said the secretary-general "finds it unacceptable that the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prevent the disruption of the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in Colombo as a result of unruly protests organized and led by a cabinet minister."

The three-member U.N. panel was set up by Ban to look into alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the final days of the Sri Lankan military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels, which ended in May 2009. The rebels had been fighting for 26 years for a separate homeland for the Tamil-speaking minority in the island nation.

In recalling Neil Buhne, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, the secretary-general called on the Sri Lankan government "to live up to its responsibilities towards the United Nations as host country," the statement said.

The Sri Lankan government says it has complied with both its domestic and international obligations in dealing with the protest. The government opposes setting up of the U.N. panel, describing it as unwarranted interference in its affairs. It says its military did not target or kill civilians or shoot surrendering Tamil Tigers.

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