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Sri Lanka groups want UN to inquire about killings

Wednesday - 8/21/2013, 12:48pm  ET

KRISHAN FRANCIS
Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Sri Lankan human rights activists said Wednesday they have asked a United Nations official to inquire about the recent killing of unarmed protesters, anti-Muslim violence and alleged army land grabs from victims of the country's civil war.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay arrives Sunday for a seven-day visit to prepare a report on Sri Lanka to be given to the U.N. Human Rights Council next month.

The council approved a resolution in March calling on Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels during the last phase of a civil war that ended in 2009. It also asked the high commissioner to present an oral report to the council in September and a detailed report next March.

The rights activists said in addition to wartime violations like abductions and forced disappearances, they want Pillay to ask about recent incidents such as the killing by the military of three people at a protest this month.

Nimalka Fernando, an official with Platform for Freedom, a grouping of 60 organizations, said they have written to Pillay requesting her to visit the former war zone as well as the western town of Weliweriya where the military shot at protesters demanding clean drinking water and the site of a mosque attacked by a Buddhist-led mob.

Five people have died in two years in military or police crackdowns on public protests. There have also been a series of attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned shops by Buddhist-led mobs. No one has been punished.

Buddhism is the majority and state religion of Sri Lanka.

Fernando said the military has seized some 6,400 acres (2,589 hectares) of land from ethnic Tamil civilians displaced since the end of the civil war. "The military is running farms. This is not an answer to the employment problem of the displaced people," she said.

The Tamil Tiger rebels were fighting to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

A U.N. report has said that the ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government may have killed as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. The government is also accused of abducting suspected rebels, human rights activists, and critical journalists during and after the conflict. Many of those abducted are feared dead.

The rebels are also accused of killing civilians, using them as human shields and recruiting child soldiers.


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