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Rajapaksa rejects war crime chargers

world Updated: May 22, 2009 20:12 IST

AFP
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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.

"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 tens of thousands of supporters outside the national parliament.

"They are still trying to do that, but I am not afraid," the president said.

"The strength I have is your support. I am even ready to go to the gallows on your behalf."

Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed during the offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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 for using civilians as a human shield.

Aid workers were also denied access to those trapped by the fighting, despite accounts of a jungle area littered with the dead or dying, with the elderly, women and children cowering in shallow dug-outs with little food or water for several months.

The UN's main rights body is to hold a special session on Sri Lanka next week.

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

The Sri Lankan military declared final victory in the decades-old conflict on Monday after overrunning the rebels' last holdout in the northeast.