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Sri Lanka rejects rebel call for war crime probe

[Reuters, Sunday, 15 March 2009 11:42 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels on Sunday urged the United Nations to investigate possible war crimes by the military but made no mention of the world body’s allegations the separatists themselves may be committing them. Sri Lanka’s government immediately rejected the call by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and said it was the separatists themselves who should be probed.


The government says the LTTE is desperate for a ceasefire to re-arm, now that they are cornered in 35 square km (14 sq mile) of northeastern Sri Lanka with the military aiming to strike a death blow to the 25-year civil war once and for all.


U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday said both sides in the war may have committed war crimes and urged a suspension of the conflict to let tens of thousands of people trapped in the war zone escape.


LTTE political head B. Nadesan urged the United Nations to investigate the activities of Sri Lanka’s forces, the pro-rebel www.TamilNet.com reported on Sunday.


"There are thousands of evidences among the civilians, officials and local aid workers. The ICRC has witnessed the Sri Lankan attacks on the civilians," TamilNet quoted him as saying, referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross.


The Red Cross is the only aid body allowed a permanent presence in the war zone.

Pillay accused the military of shelling areas full of civilians in the no-fire zones it had set up, and said the LTTE was reportedly shooting people who tried to leave and forcibly recruiting others including children to fight.


Nadeesan made no reference to her allegations against the LTTE, which is on U.S., EU, Canadian and Indian terrorist lists mainly due to hundreds of suicide bombings and assassinations it has carried out since the war began in earnest in 1983.


Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary, Palitha Kohona, told Reuters it was the Tigers who were responsible for war crimes.


"When you herd thousands of people into a small enclave, use them as a human shield, do not permit them to leave while you station heavy weapons in their midst, I think that would suggest a serious breach of international humanitarian law," he said.


The Tigers have repeatedly accused the government of intentionally shelling civilians.


The military denies that and says it has stopped using artillery, and is taking higher casualties as a result because the Tigers are firing heavy weapons from areas packed with civilians and an army-demarcated no-fire zone on the coast.

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