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Published: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 10:10:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 10:11:13 PM

Former Finnish president to advise U.N.'s Sri Lanka war crimes inquiry

GENEVA (Reuters) - Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and two top human rights lawyers were named on Wednesday as advisers to a U.N. inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka which Colombo wants to halt.

The U.N. Human Rights Council voted in March to set up the investigation into crimes allegedly committed by both Sri Lankan state forces and Tamil rebels during the conflict that ended in 2009, saying the government had failed to investigate properly.

Besides Ahtisaari, the 12-strong U.N. staff on the inquiry will be advised by Silvia Cartwright, a former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, and Asma Jahangir, a former president of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

"I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation," U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement.

Diplomatic sources say Jahangir was among those shortlisted to replace Pillay as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, a job that eventually went to Jordan's Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein.

Sri Lanka opposes the inquiry, which will run until April 2015, arguing that it is doing enough to investigate war crimes allegedly committed in the final stages of the 26-year conflict, when the army defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

In March, its ambassador called the inquiry "counter-productive" and "inimical to the interests of the people of Sri Lanka".

Pillay urged the government to cooperate and said the investigation would still go ahead if it did not.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has in recent years set up investigations into Syria and North Korea and may decide this week to begin another, into Eritrea.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Andrew Roche)

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