Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Probe Sri Lankan killings: UN council

NO JUSTICENo one has been prosecuted for such atrocities as a 2006 massacre of 17 aid workers, which truce monitors believe were the handiwork of security forces

AGENCIES , COLOMBO AND GENEVA

The UN Human Rights Council called on Sri Lanka on Friday to investigate allegations of killings and disappearances and prosecute those responsible, including members of government security forces.

Western countries and activists also raised concerns about Sri Lanka’s refusal to allow international human rights monitors into the country, which is embroiled in a 25-year-old civil war.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch welcomed the Council’s recommendation calling on Sri Lanka to investigate and prosecute all extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings.

“The rate at which such killings continue is alarming,” Amnesty International’s Yolanda Foster told the talks.

“The government must end the current climate of impunity for human rights violations,” Foster said.

She said that no one had been prosecuted for such atrocities as the 2006 massacre of 17 mostly Tamil aid workers, which Nordic truce monitors believe security forces were responsible for.

Canadian envoy Terry Cormier said evidence given in public hearings of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Commission of Inquiry had implicated security forces in the execution-style murders. Canada urged Sri Lanka to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Rajiva Wijesingha, secretary to Sri Lanka’s ministry of disaster management and human rights, told the Council that his government could only accept 45 of its 80 recommendations.

Sri Lanka was facing “increasingly brutal and vicious atrocities by the LTTE”, he said, using the acronym of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

His government is determined to “defeat the forces of terror” and cannot accept international monitors, but will combat torture and recruitment of child soldiers, he said.

Philip Alston, a UN special investigator on executions, reported last month that Sri Lanka’s government was relying on paramilitary groups to maintain control in the east and that he had evidence showing they were responsible for killings.

Meanwhile, government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels fought battles on the northern fronts, leaving 11 rebels and seven soldiers dead, the military said yesterday.

The new fighting took place in the Mannar, Welioya and Vavuniya regions bordering the rebels’ de facto state in the north on Friday, a defense ministry statement said.

In the Welioya area, separate clashes killed seven rebels and four soldiers, while three confrontations in Vavuniya and Mannar killed four rebels and three soldiers, it said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claims because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy’s casualties while playing down its own.

Fighting has escalated in recent months along the front lines.

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