Sri Lanka shutting down war scrutiny: Australia senator

SYDNEY - An Australian senator briefly detained in Sri Lanka returned home Monday and accused Colombo of trying to "shut down" scrutiny of war crimes before a Commonwealth summit.

Sri Lanka is facing international censure over alleged war crimes, and its hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week has become mired in controversy as demands mount for it to address the allegations.

Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon was picked up by authorities in Colombo and interrogated on Sunday, and said she believed it was because the Sri Lankan government "does not want scrutiny of what is happening in that country".

"The war crimes need to be investigated; the crimes against humanity clearly continue, the evidence is very strong," she said.

"The Sri Lankan government want to shut down those messages."

Rhiannon urged Australia's conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott not to attend CHOGM, saying: "Surely they should take a leaf from the Canadians."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is boycotting the summit to protest at Sri Lanka's failure to investigate its troops over allegations they killed up to 40,000 civilians in 2009 in the final stages of the civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also pulled out.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron plans to attend but has promised to push for an international probe into the alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will attend, but has said this does not imply support for the Sri Lankan government.

Abbott on Monday reaffirmed his intention to go to the November 15-17 meet, saying he respected the Commonwealth and did not want Australia "to trash one of the very longstanding and important bodies that we are a senior member of".

Asked about alleged rights abuses, he said he was "not inclined to go overseas and give other countries lectures".

He said Sri Lanka had endured an horrific civil war in which the Tamil Tigers -- "an absolutely vicious outfit" which invented suicide bombing -- fought the Sri Lankan army.

"Now, that's not to say that the atrocities were all on one side. I don't pretend that for a second," Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB.

"I don't say everything's perfect there for a second, but I think things are getting better and while, yes, I will be urging the Sri Lankan government to respect everyone's rights, I think I will also be acknowledging that a lot of progress has been made and in the end the most important civil right is the right to live without the threat of death or horrific violence through some civil war."

Rhiannon, who was detained while preparing to host a media conference with New Zealand Green Party MP Jan Logie on Sunday, had been in Sri Lanka on a four-day fact-finding mission into alleged human rights abuses and press freedom.

She said authorities told them they had violated their visas, a charge she denied, and held her for over three hours before they were released.

Her detention follows that of two Australian media rights activists this month. The pair said they were subjected to lengthy questioning which they felt was designed to intimidate reporters both inside and outside the country.