Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 18:37 UK

Sri Lanka rights body bid opposed

Sri Lankan soldiers patrol along the front line in the Muhamalai area (6 April 2008)
Troops and rebels are both accused of abusing human rights

UN members are being urged to oppose Sri Lanka's bid to be re-elected to the body's Human Rights Council.

On the eve of the vote, the New York based group Human Rights Watch said disappearances and abductions in Sri Lanka amounted to a national crisis.

The campaign against Sri Lanka's bid is backed by several Nobel prize winners, among them Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Sri Lanka's government said it should have had a chance to answer Archbishop Tutu's allegations beforehand.

'Enforced disappearances'

Human Rights Watch accused the Sri Lankan government of widespread abductions and "disappearances".

It recalled that members of the UN Human Rights Council were required to "uphold the highest standards" of human rights and "fully co-operate" with the council.

Archbishop Tutu accused the Sri Lankan government of systematic abuses of human rights.

He was joined in his criticism by other Nobel laureates, among them former US President Jimmy Carter.

"Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of enforced disappearances in the world, with little or no discernable commitment to accountability," he wrote earlier this month.

Violence has intensified since government troops pulled out of a truce with Tamil Tiger rebels this year.

More than 70,000 people have been killed since the rebels began their fight for independence for minority Tamils in the north and east.

Both sides in the civil war are frequently accused of abusing human rights.

According to Human Rights Watch at least 1,500 people "disappeared" between 2006 and 2007 - most of them ethnic Tamils.

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