Sri Lanka opposes UN-backed war crimes probe

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's parliament rejected on Wednesday an investigation by the United Nations human rights body into alleged crimes during the island nation's civil war that ended five years ago.

Ruling coalition lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday for a motion that says such a probe "should not be carried out on the ground that such a course of action is detrimental to the process of reconciliation and peace and that it erodes the sovereignty, dignity and stature of Sri Lanka."

The motion was approved by a 144 votes in the 225-member parliament.

The probe by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights comes after a U.S.-sponsored resolution was approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

The refusal of Sri Lanka's parliament is not binding on the investigation.

Sri Lanka's military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, ending the long civil war. Heavy civilian casualties and allegations of serious human rights violations, especially in the final months of the fighting, provoked an international outcry, with foreign governments and rights groups demanding an investigation into allegations of rights abuses and accountability issues during the war.

Tamil rebels fought to create a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamils.

According to initial U.N. estimates, between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the conflict. A later U.N. report suggested that as many as 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last months of the fighting alone. The government disputes that figure.

Sri Lanka's foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris has earlier said the government will not cooperate with the U.N. probe.

An ethnic minority Tamil party voted against the motion. One of the two main opposition parties — both of which derive support from the majority Sinhalese — abstained from voting, while other was absent at the time of voting. These parties emphasized the need to have a credible local mechanism to probe the allegations of accountability and rights violations.

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