Sri Lanka failed to probe war abuse charges: Amnesty

June 12th, 2009 - 11:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 12 (DPA) Sri Lanka failed to properly investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the years it was in conflict with the Tamil Tigers, the rights watchdog Amnesty International said Friday.
The human rights group said the “failed” system in place for the “past 20 years has trapped the country in a vicious cycle of abuse and impunity”.

A new report by Amnesty, entitled Twenty Years of Make Believe, looked into the commissions of inquiry set up by the Sri Lankan government over the years.

It was issued following a decision at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council last month not to investigate allegations of war crimes by government forces and the rebels. The resolution, which praised the government, was pushed forward or supported by Sri Lanka’s allies, including China, Russia, Pakistan and India.

Yolanda Foster with Amnesty said Sri Lanka’s government could not investigate human rights abuses or war crimes allegations on its own.

“At this stage, Sri Lanka cannot go at it alone,” Foster told reporters in Geneva.

Among the charges alleged by Amnesty are mass killings, targeted attacks, abductions, forced “disappearances” and torture. The report was based on interviews conducted with people in the country and refugees living abroad.

The rights group accused the government and paramilitary forces aligned with it, as well as the rebels, of “grave” abuses.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the rule of law in Sri Lanka had “broken down”.

A separate report by the International Bar Association indicated there was widespread intimidation of journalists, human rights activists, judges and witnesses. In some cases, reporters and others ended up dead in suspicious circumstances.

Saravanamuttu said that for the country to move into a post-conflict situation, after decades of war, it would need a reconciliation process, which would have to be designed to bring to light atrocities from the past.

According to UN estimates, up to 100,000 people were killed during the more than 20 years of conflict, which ended last month with the government declaring victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

At least 8,000 people were estimated to have been killed in the final weeks of fighting, as the government closed in the last rebel stronghold.

Amnesty said a credible international commission of inquiry should be appointed to look into the charges so that Sri Lanka could “turn a page”.

Sri Lanka’s government has rejected charges that it committed abuses.

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