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Sri Lanka to investigate war atrocities

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a commission Wednesday to investigate wartime abductions and disappearances ahead of an update to be given to the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka’s progress in investigating alleged war crimes and human rights violations.

Rajapaksa’s office said he appointed retired judge Maxwell Parakrama Parnagama to head the three-member panel.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is set to visit the island country this month.

The council in March approved for a second successive year a US-backed resolution calling on Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during its civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels. It also directed Pillay’s office to update the council on Sri Lanka’s progress.

The presidential commission was given the ‘‘authority to conduct inquiries and investigations necessary, and submit a report to the president within six months,’’ Rajapaksa’s office said.

In May 2009, Sri Lanka’s military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought a quarter-century civil war to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

A UN report has said that Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-dominated government may have killed as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. Rajapaksa’s government is also accused of abducting suspected rebels, human rights activists, and critical journalists during and after the conflict. Many of those abducted are feared dead.

The rebels are also accused of killing civilians, using them as human shields, and recruiting child soldiers.

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