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Sri Lanka Tamils tell commission about rights abuse

[Reuters, Sunday, 15 August 2010 07:58 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils testified before a government-appointed war commission on Saturday alleging rights violations during the final stages of the army’s offensive against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Witnesses told the commission of loved ones taken away by unidentified gangs, and sometimes by the military as it pressed on against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a 25-year war that ended last year.

"My husband was abducted in a white van on September 4, 2008 by an unidentified gang," Umakanthan Naguleshwari told the commission with tears in her eyes. "There is no information about him."

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up the panel, called the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, to look into the last seven years of the war, after turning down Western requests for an independent investigation into widespread allegations of abuse by the military during the war.

The United States and rights groups have questioned the credibility of the commission which began hearings this week in the northern town of Vavuniya where tens of thousands of minority Tamils displaced by the fighting were kept in camps.

Sinnasamy Nallathambi pleaded with the commission to help him locate his son who, he said, was taken away in a white van immediately after police released him from its custody.

Rights groups say thousands of civilians were killed toward the end of the war, an allegation denied by the Sri Lankan government.

Sabharathnam Sudharshini said the military had kept her husband since May last year without giving her any information. She found out about his whereabouts through the Red Cross, she said, urging the commission to secure his release.

Commission chairman C.R. De Silva said the panel would write to the military commander to inquire about the case.

[Full Coverage]

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