Commonwealth urged to drop Sri Lanka venue amid rights accusations

COLOMBO (Reuters) - A leading human rights group urged the Commonwealth on Thursday to shift the venue of its November summit from Sri Lanka because of Colombo's failure to address accusations of rights violations in the final stages of the civil war.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent, international probe into accusations of war crimes committed during the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which ended in May 2009.

Tens of thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, were killed in the final months of the war, according to a U.N. panel.

"The Commonwealth will rightly face international ridicule if it goes ahead with its summit in Sri Lanka," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The call from the rights group comes ahead of Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting in London scheduled for Friday. The Commonwealth groups Britain and many former colonies.

"The CMAG meeting should send a message to the Sri Lankan government that the scale and severity of its abuses violate the Commonwealth's core values and will not be rewarded," Adams said.

Human Rights Watch said that since 2009, the Sri Lankan government had been responsible for clampdowns on basic freedoms, threats and attacks against civil society, and actions against the judiciary and other institutions, imperilling Sri Lanka's democracy.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated that he would act on an earlier implicit threat to boycott the heads of government meeting if it is held in Sri Lanka.

"We are deeply troubled by the direction in Sri Lanka and the fact that Sri Lanka is, at this point, the host of the next Commonwealth heads of government meeting," Harper told parliament on Wednesday.

Sri Lankan government officials, who have repeatedly denied rights violations, were not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and David Ljunggren in Canada; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Nick Macfie)