* UN rights chief decries lack of progress in investigations
* Pillay says killings and abductions continue in Sri Lanka
* U.S. set to pressure Sri Lanka at UN rights session
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Feb 13 Sri Lanka is failing to
investigate alleged atrocities committed by government forces in
defeating a Tamil insurgency and activists and opposition
politicians are still being killed or abducted, the United
Nations said on Wednesday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called
on authorities to allow international experts in criminal and
forensic investigations to help resolve outstanding wartime
crimes and end impunity.
"The steps taken by the government to investigate
allegations of serious violations of human rights further have
also been inconclusive and lack the independence and
impartiality required to inspire confidence," Pillay said in a
report on a U.N. mission to Sri Lanka in September.
Rights groups say the Sri Lankan military killed thousands
of ethnic minority Tamil civilians in the shrinking territory
held by rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam just
before their defeat in May 2009.
An expert panel set up by U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon, whose findings have been rejected by Colombo, has said
the army committed large-scale abuses and that as many as 40,000
civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict.
Pillay said the government has not set up a mechanism to
trace adults who went missing during the latter stages of the
war and that investigations of disappearances had not led to
arrests or prosecutions.
The commissioner, a former judge of the International
Criminal Court, last month accused Sri Lanka of "gross
interference" in the judiciary, saying its removal of chief
justice Shirani Bandaranayake could jeopardise efforts to
prosecute war crimes.
Sri Lanka has only committed to implement some of the
recommendations of its own official investigation into the
three-decade civil war, known as the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission, issued in late 2011, her report said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government says it never
targeted civilians. In written comments on Pillay's report, it
complained of inaccuracies and said a court of inquiry would
probe a video broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 television in
2009 purporting to show summary executions of Tamil prisoners by
Pillay voiced concern about the "transparency, independence
and impartiality of this process, as well as for the protection
of witnesses and victims".
"The period from the last quarter of 2011 to mid-2012
witnessed new reports of abductions and disappearances,
including of political activists as well as politicians and
their familiy members," her report said.
"During that period, there were also reported cases of
abducted persons being found tortured and killed," it said,
noting the government said the cases were being investigated.
Journalists and media institutions continued to be harassed
and attacked last year, according to the report.
Government ministers had made "vicious public attacks" on
Sri Lankan human rights activists who took part in a session of
the U.N. Human Rights Council a year ago.
Sri Lanka is set to come under renewed pressure from the
United States and other Western states at the Geneva forum's
annual four-week session opening on Feb. 25, diplomats said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)