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* Sri Lankan government prepares to face the challenge in Geneva
Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 11:24 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 18, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government says it will face all the challenges it may encounter at the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva in March.

Speaking at an event held in Kandy Saturday, President's Special Envoy for Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the government will face all the challenges against the country while safeguarding the country and its security forces.

"We have a big challenge in March. We are ready to face any challenge," said Minister Samarasinghe.

"We will neither betray the nation nor our gallant troops," he said adding that the security forces did not commit any crimes while fighting the Tamil Tiger terrorists.

He said the data collected by the Department of Census and Statistics on the deaths and missing persons in the Northern Province will be presented before the UNHRC at the March session.

He added that the data will prove the claims of over 40,000 civilians were killed during the final stages of the war were false.

Explaining that the civilians were however killed during the battle when the LTTE used them as human shields, Minister Samarasinghe reiterated that the security forces never targeted the civilians.

"We all know what the LTTE did. They took 300,000 civilians as human shields. They fired at troops from among the civilians," Samarasinghe explained.

The Minister noted that it was not possible to take a count of the casualties during the final battle and said the false figure of 40,000 was given by a United Nations official to help him sell a book on the war.

Former UN official Gordon Weiss in his book "The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers" said up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the civil war.

Cabinet Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella earlier this month said although Sri Lanka expects heavy pressure at the session, the country is not isolated by any means and a number of countries have expressed their support. The government has already launched a program to meet the challenge, he said.

The 25th session of the UNHRC is scheduled to begin on March 03.

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