Sri Lanka: UN says shelling 'killed civilians The UN has said widespread shelling by the Sri Lankan government killed most of the tens of thousands of civilians who died in the final months of the 25-year-long war, in 2009. The report also accuses Tamil Tigers separatists of using civilians as human shields. The UN is calling for an independent investigation into what it says could constitute war crimes. The government has consistently denied allegations that it targeted civilians. Sri Lanka had asked the UN not to publish the report, saying it could damage reconciliation efforts. It has rejected the findings as biased and fraudulent. 'Credible allegations' The report paints a brutal image of the final offensive on the Tamil enclave in northern Sri Lanka between January and May 2009. It said that hospitals, UN centres and ships belonging to international aid group the Red Cross were deliberately shelled by government forces, AP reports. It describes prisoners being shot in the head and women raped, while the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) used 330,000 civilians as human shields, and shot those who tried to escape. The UN experts said there were "credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international rights law was committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity". It urged the government to issue a formal and public recognition of its role in responsibility for the extensive civilian casualties in the final stages of the conflict. Earlier, the UN had estimated about 7,000 civilians were killed in the final offensive. The UN panel was not allowed in to Sri Lanka to conduct its own research. The panel also recommended that the Sri Lankan government should respond to the serious allegations "by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations" which would meet international standards. The Sri Lankan government has described a leaked copy of the report as "fundamentally flawed and patently biased". Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he could not launch an international investigation into war crimes allegations unless the Sri Lankan government agreed, or member states called for it. But the BBC's Barbara Plett, in New York, says that the country continues to have strong allies on both the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council. 'Controversial report' However, the UN will carry out a review of its own actions during the conflict. The report criticises UN officials for not pressing the Sri Lankan government hard enough to exercise restraint and for not going public with high casualty figures which, it says, would have put more pressure on the government. The highly controversial document was the result of a 10-month process of gathering evidence. Publication was repeatedly delayed as Sri Lanka urged the secretary general not to publish its findings. In a statement, the secretary general's spokesperson said: "The decision to release the report was made as a matter of transparency and in the broader public interest." He said a copy of the report had been made available "in its entirety" to the government of Sri Lanka on 12 April, adding that the government had failed to respond to a repeated offer to publish its response to the panel's finding alongside the report. US Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sri Lanka should ensure those involved in human rights violations are held to account. "I am deeply concerned that the government of Sri Lanka has thus far chosen to protest the report's conclusions rather than accept the recommendations of the UN panel," California lawmaker Mr Berman said in a statement. Our correspondent says that a divided Security Council was initially reluctant to address Sri Lanka's war and much less call for an inquiry. However, the secretary general appointed the panel after mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses and massive civilian casualties in the five-month offensive which ended the war.