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Sri Lanka defiant over war crimes allegations

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday brushed off calls for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by government troops in their offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels.

In a defiant speech delivered just hours before the arrival of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Ban Ki-Moon (bän kē-mn), 1944–, South Korean diplomat, secretary-general of the United Nations (2007–), b. Chungju, grad. Seoul National Univ. (B.S. , the president said he was even "ready to go to the gallows GALLOWS. An erection on which to bang criminals condemned to death. " as a consequence of defeating the separatist guerrillas.

The UN chief is expected to repeat international dismay over large-scale civilian deaths in the fighting, as well as alarm over the treatment of displaced Tamil civilians and restrictions on aid workers.

But Rajapakse dismissed international pressure.

"There are some who tried to stop our military campaign by threatening to haul us before war crimes tribunals," Rajapakse said in a speech to hundreds of thousands of supporters outside the national parliament.

"I am not afraid. The strength I have is your support. I am even ready to go to the gallows on your behalf."

The UN estimated that over 7,000 civilians were killed in the first four months of this year alone, when a blistering government offensive cornered the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Noun 1. Tamil Eelam - the independent state that the Tamil Tigers have fought for

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka, Ceylon - a republic on the island of Ceylon; became independent of the United Kingdom in 1948
 (LTTE) on the island's northeast coast.

Both sides in the conflict have been accused of rights violations, with numerous aid agencies and rights groups alleging indiscriminate army shelling and condemning the Tigers, who had fought for a separate state for decades, for using civilians as a human shield human shield Forensic medicine A person used to protect a kidnapper, terrorist, or combatant from gunfire .

Aid workers were also denied access to those trapped by the fighting, despite accounts of a jungle area littered with dead, dying and starving civilians.

The Sri Lankan military declared final victory in the decades-old conflict on Monday after overrunning the rebels' last holdout hold·out  
One that withholds agreement or consent upon which progress is contingent.

Noun 1. holdout - a negotiator who hopes to gain concessions by refusing to come to terms; "their star pitcher was a holdout for six
 and killing LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran Velupillai Pirabhakaran (Tamil: வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன்; born November 26, 1954), most times referred to as Prabaharan or Thambi, . It has staunchly denied killing any civilians.

"We had to overcome many obstacles in our battle against the Tigers. The international community was against us, but today they have begun supporting us," the president said in his address, which was carried on national television.

But the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called for a war crimes probe, a call backed by former colonial power Britain.

The UN's main rights body is to hold a special session on Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (srē läng`kə) [Sinhalese,=resplendent land], formerly Ceylon, ancient Taprobane, officially Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, island republic (2005 est. pop.  next week.

UN chief Ban arrives in Colombo later Friday on a 24-hour mission to press for unrestricted humanitarian access Humanitarian access is a specific legal term, referred to the ability by neutral humanitarian actors (such as the United Nations, the ICRC, and foreign or local NGOs), to enter an area during a conflict, to provide humanitarian aid as well as monitor and promote human rights.  to an estimated 280,000 civilians who managed to escape the war but who are now being held in prison-like conditions.

Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, told reporters that his boss would tour the sprawling Manik Farm area in the northern district of Vavuniya, where most of the people displaced by the recent fighting are housed.

The camps are ringed by barbed wire barbed wire, wire composed of two zinc-coated steel strands twisted together and having barbs spaced regularly along them. The need for barbed wire arose in the 19th cent. , but the government calls them "welfare villages". Tamil activists have likened them to concentration camps.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was formed in June 1998 to "advocate for the adoption of, and adherence to, national, regional and international legal standards (including an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child) prohibiting the military , an umbrella grouping of global organisations including Amnesty International Amnesty International (AI,) human-rights organization founded in 1961 by Englishman Peter Benenson; it campaigns internationally against the detention of prisoners of conscience, for the fair trial of political prisoners, to abolish the death penalty and torture of  and Human Rights Watch, said Thursday it had received verified reports of child abductions by pro-government paramilitaries tasked with weeding out former Tiger child soldiers from the camps.

Ban has also made it clear that he wants to see swift progress not only on immediate humanitarian aid and reconstruction, but also on reconciliation with the disenfranchised Tamil minority, who make up 12.6 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million.

He also said Tuesday that any serious allegations of war crimes "should be properly investigated."

The conflict has cost up to 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

More than 6,200 Sri Lankan soldiers were also killed and around 30,000 wounded in nearly two years of fighting with the rebels, Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said in an interview with state TV on Friday.

In a separate announcement, the pro-rebel website Tamilnet repeated LTTE claims that Prabhakaran was still alive, and said "the LTTE leadership will make contact with its people at a suitable time in future."

It dismissed the display of Prabhakaran's corpse on state TV as part of "engineered rumours."
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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:May 22, 2009
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