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UN urged to release Sri Lankan civilian death toll

[AP, Saturday, 30 May 2009 09:04 One Comment]

A leading human rights group has asked the United Nations to publicize its estimate of civilian deaths in the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s civil war amid escalating reports over how many died.

Amnesty International said in a statement late Friday that it has received "consistent testimony" that both government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels killed thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone and called for an independent international investigation. The group did not say who had testified to the alleged abuses.

The U.N. said earlier that 7,000 civilians were killed and 16,700 wounded from Jan. 20 through May 7. However, these estimates circulated among diplomats were not released publicly.

Amnesty cited an investigation published on Friday in a British newspaper, The Times, which said that some 20,000 civilians were killed in the final phase of the war. The report cited unnamed U.N. sources, but the world body did not confirm that number.

The rights group said the newspaper’s report "underscores the need for this investigation."

The government said last week it had ended the 25-year separatist war on the island with the killing of top rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his military and political leadership.

Throughout the fighting reports emerged that government soldiers fired at densely populated civilian areas with little regard for their safety and that the rebels prevented civilians from fleeing the war zone and used them as human shields.

However, independent verification of these allegations was not possible because the government had expelled the aid groups from the conflict zone and prevented journalists from reporting firsthand.

Earlier this week the U.N. Human Rights Council rejected calls to investigate allegations of war crimes and praised the government for crushing the rebels.

Sri Lanka’s allies on the 47-member council forced through a resolution condemning the Tamil rebels for using civilians as human shields but stressing that the war was a "domestic" matter that did not warrant outside interference.

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One Comment »

  • Selva said:

    Rajapakse will get interrogated for his war crimes. Inspite of all his crimes he let loose Potu amman and Prabhakaran. Yes LTTE did lose this battle field. But the war was not lost. Fight for freedom will emerge back.