Sri Lanka yesterday tried to claim a moral victory and insisted it would push on with reconciliation efforts after being censured by the UN's top rights body for failing to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice.
The US-initiated resolution was carried at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Thursday with 23 votes in favour and 12 against. Sri Lankan officials said the fact that another 12 nations abstained meant that a majority of the 47-member council did not support the censure move.
Sri Lanka's state-run Daily News reported Thursday's UN vote under the headline: "Majority against America." The paper also called the UNHRC vote a "moral victory" for Colombo. The privately-owned daily, The Island, accused the United States of trying to bring about regime change in Colombo by proposing the war crimes probe.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse, who rejected the UN call for an investigation against his country, told AFP Thursday that he was pleased that neighbouring India, which voted for a similar resolution last year, decided to abstain this time round.
Sri Lanka frees Indian fishermen Rajapakse yesterday ordered the immediate release of dozens of Indian fishermen detained for poaching in Sri Lanka's territorial water.
Thursday's resolution is the third in as many years and is also the most damning for Colombo. UN says about 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were said to have been killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, a charge Colombo denies. The 1972-2009 conflict claimed 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.
The US welcomed the resolution and asked Colombo to take "meaningful action" to ensure accountability and reconciliation.
The latest resolution asked UN rights chief Navi Pillay to probe actions of both government forces and Tamil rebels during a seven year period leading up to the end of Sri Lanka's separatist war.
The resolution is expected to have little short-term impact on Rajapakse's regime and analysts say it may even boost his popularity among a nationalistic electorate.