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Sri Lanka rejects UN move to protect war crimes evidence

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the UN motion was not binding on Colombo AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA

(AFP)-Sri Lanka on Tuesday rejected a UN move to preserve evidence of war crimes in the country and said the money allocated for the effort would be better spent on housing for the poor.

The resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva called for a $2.8 million budget to collect and preserve evidence of war crimes for future prosecutions.

Read : UNHRC adopts resolution against Sri Lanka

It follows a damning report from UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Sri Lanka’s failure to prosecute war criminals from the island’s separatist conflict that ended in May 2009.

Foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the UN rights council’s censure motion, which 22 voted for and 11 against, was not binding on Colombo.

“It is a waste of money. Highly uncalled for,” Gunawardena told reporters at a hurriedly organised press conference in Colombo shortly after losing the vote.

“Without the consent and acceptance of the country concerned, it cannot be implemented.”

The money would be better spent on providing “housing for the entire population in the Jaffna peninsula”, he said, referring to the heartland of the island’s minority Tamils in the war-battered region.

Successive governments in Sri Lanka have resisted calls for an independent investigation into allegations that troops killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians while crushing Tiger guerrillas, a charge Colombo denies.

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