South Asia

Thousands protest in Sri Lanka against UN report

Placards denounce UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Colombo
Image caption Supporters carried placards praising President Rajapaksa, right, but denouncing the UN

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans have used May Day rallies to reject a UN report calling for both sides in the country's civil war to be investigated over possible war crimes.

In the capital Colombo, government supporters carried placards criticising senior UN figures.

The report, released last week, said shelling by government forces killed tens of thousands of civilians.

It also said Tamil Tiger rebels had used civilians as human shields.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected the report.

Speaking at a rally, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told the crowd that Sri Lanka would not bow to external pressures.

"Sri Lanka is the only country that fed even those who took up guns against us. We didn't let even those fighting us starve," he said.

Marchers denounced UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.

Senior US officials, who have demanded an independent inquiry into reports of human rights violations in the last months of the war in 2009, were also denounced.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Colombo says Sri Lanka's leaders are sending out a defiant message to the international community that they have the support of their people.

The controversial UN report followed 10 months of evidence gathering by a three-member panel of UN experts, who were not allowed into Sri Lanka.

The panel said there were "credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international rights law was committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity".

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