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U.N.'s Ban raises alleged killings with Sri Lanka aide

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised with Sri Lanka’s human rights minister on Thursday allegations that his country’s troops summarily executed Tamil rebels, the United Nations said.

British television aired a video last week that, according to a Sri Lankan advocacy group, shows the troops killing unarmed, naked, bound and blindfolded Tamils during the army’s final assault to smash Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year.

Ban discussed the refugee crisis that followed the defeat of the Tigers during a meeting in Geneva with Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s minister for disaster management and human rights, the United Nations said.

“They talked about the importance of reconciliation,” said a summary of the meeting issued in New York. “They also discussed accountability, particularly in the light of the recent accusations of extrajudicial executions.”

U.N. officials confirmed that Ban had raised with Samarasinghe the allegations in the video, broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 television, which said it got the footage from advocacy group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

The officials did not say how Samarasinghe had responded, but Sri Lanka’s government has dismissed the video as fake.

The Channel 4 video footage can be seen here: (here)

Ban’s raising of the issue on the sidelines of a climate change conference in Geneva came after the United States voiced concern on Wednesday about the video footage.

“These reports are very disturbing, they are of grave concern,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters. “We’d like more information as we formulate our own national response.”

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said on Tuesday he hoped the United Nations would open an investigation to determine whether Sri Lankan soldiers did in fact summarily execute Tamils, which would be a violation of international law.

Ban, who traveled to Sri Lanka just after the defeat of the Tigers in a visit some critics said was ill-timed, has not so far called for such an inquiry. But he did say in June that any allegations of war crimes should be investigated.

Sri Lanka’s government has repeatedly denied that its forces were guilty of war crimes or human rights breaches in the last months of its 25-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whom it defeated in May.

Editing by Xavier Briand