Colombo: Sri Lanka will set up a top panel to implement the national human rights action plan (NHRAP) in a bid to strengthen civil liberties in the country, a move seen as an effort to blunt criticism at a key UN session later this month.

The cabinet here on Friday announced the appointment of a cabinet sub-committee, including Foreign Minister GL Peiris and five other senior ministers, to implement NHRAP, officials said.

The action plan was approved by the Cabinet last September.

It was voluntarily formulated by the government in response to a pledge made at the Universal Periodic Review meeting before the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2008.

The five-year action plan will be implemented under eight sections, including civil and political rights, social economic and cultural rights, and rights of abstinence from torture, women and children rights.

It is expected to strengthen civil liberties and ensure better human rights compliance.

The Cabinet has also approved a proposal made by Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister and special envoy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Human Rights, to convene an Inter-ministerial committee under his chairmanship to monitor the implementation of the action plan and undertake initial work for Sri Lanka's participation in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in October 2012.

Lanka's rights record had come under close international scrutiny following the the release of a report by the UN Secretary General-appointed panel which recommended an independent probe into alleged war crimes committed by the government troops and the LTTE during the last phase of the military conflict which ended in May 2009.

The government dismisses allegations of rights abuse as biased propaganda by the pro-LTTE diaspora backed by Western governments to tarnish the country's image.

UNHRC is set to meet in Geneva from February 27-March 23 where reports have suggested that western nations may move a resolution pressing Sri Lanka to probe alleged war crimes.

Sri Lanka has said it is confident of facing the session as it has a clean slate.

The government has cited the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as its response to calls for independent investigations into alleged war crimes.

The LLRC report has recommended that allegations of civilian casualties be investigated though it exonerated the troops of direct responsibility of targeting the civilians.

(Agencies)