The United Nations' top human rights body has approved an international criminal investigation into alleged abuses in Sri Lanka's civil war, fought between the government and Tamil Tiger separatist rebels and which ended in 2009.
Members of the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council agreed to set up the yearlong investigation, estimated to cost $1.46 million, based on the recommendation of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
By a 23-12 vote Thursday, with 12 abstentions, the council approved a U.S.-led resolution authorizing Pillay's office to launch "a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka." The inquiry also seeks to hold both sides of the conflict accountable.
Sri Lanka has come under international pressure to deal with war crimes allegedly committed in the final stage of a 26-year conflict with the rebels, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The U.N., through two previous U.S.-sponsored resolutions, has urged Sri Lanka to follow the recommendations of a local panel appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which also urged punishment for soldiers involved in war crimes.
The third resolution, also sponsored by the U.S., comes after Sri Lanka failed to implement the recommendations, amid continued alleged rights violations.
Rajapakse rejected Thursday's resolution, telling the Agence France-Presse news agency that he would instead press ahead with his own reconciliation plan.
"We reject this," Rajapakse said. "This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. "But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started," he added in a phone call.
Mohan Samaranayake, a spokesman for president Rajapakse, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the resolution was "politically motivated," "biased" and "unjust."
Samaranayake added that Sri Lanka would "study the entire process that happened so far and the changes in comparison to the previous two occasions, and will take appropriate action," referring to the previous resolutions.
A U.N. report found up to 40,000 people may have been killed in the war's final phase, but the government disputes that figure.
Pillay had told the council on Wednesday that it was crucial to recall the "magnitude and gravity" of the violations allegedly committed by both the government and the rebels, who were known for their suicide bombings.
Al Jazeera and wire services