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UN rights chief asked to trace Sri Lanka war missing

world Updated: Aug 27, 2013 19:29 IST

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Families of people who disappeared during Sri Lanka's ethnic war demonstrated in the former rebel stronghold of Jaffna on Tuesday as UN rights chief Navi Pillay visited the area on a fact-finding mission.

Demonstrators led by women held photographs of their missing relatives outside the Jaffna library and urged Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to intervene.

"There were women whose sons, brothers and husbands had disappeared in recent years," a resident told AFP by phone, asking not to be named. "Some of them were weeping. They could not meet with the UN visitor."

A government census report released in February last year showed 6,350 people were reported missing in the north after fighting ended in 2009, while rights groups say "disappearances" are still a problem.

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The demonstration in Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Colombo, was in contrast a protest in the capital Monday.

Pro-government Buddhist monks in Colombo had denounced Pillay, who had called for a war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka.

Pillay, who has previously been accused by Colombo of overstepping her mandate, arrived Sunday for her first official visit after the government dropped its public hostility to her and promised access to former war zones. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/8/SL_tamil4.jpg http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/8/SL_tamil7.jpg

She has told reporters she was only holding Colombo to human rights standards agreed by all nations.

Sri Lanka has resisted international pressure for an international investigation into what the UN says are "credible allegations" that up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the war in 2009.

A no-holds-barred military offensive crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels and ended their decades-long fight for an ethnic Tamil homeland. The rebels at the height of their power controlled a third of the country.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has since been dogged by claims troops killed Tamils indiscriminately in the war zone, which was closed to aid workers and journalists.

Tamil groups are banking on Pillay's visit to revive calls for a war crimes probe, but the government insists that its troops did not kill civilians.

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Photos (Agencies)