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Tamils to hold vigil in Trafalgar Square

[Telegraph, Tuesday, 17 May 2011 15:15 No Comment]

Sri Lankans and MPs to gather in London to mark end of civil war and renew calls for inquiry into war crimes allegations

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The Tamils’ vigil in Trafalgar Square marks the second anniversary of the end of the 26-year civil war. Both sides of the conflict have been accused of rights abuses. Photograph: Reuters

Thousands of Tamils will hold a vigil in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday evening to mark the second anniversary of the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka and to call for an independent international investigation into allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses.

As many as 40,000 non-combatants died in spring 2009 as the Sri Lankan government moved to crush Tamil Tiger separatists and end the island’s 26-year conflict.

Evidence of atrocities on both sides has emerged. Government soldiers have been accused of shelling hospitals, targeting civilians and attacking aid workers, while rebels are said to have used civilians as shields and shot those attempting to flee the fighting.

A UN report last month accused both sides of potential war crimes, but its findings were dismissed as "baseless, biased and unilateral" by the Colombo government, which also tried to stall its publication.

MPs from the UK’s main parties – among them Simon Hughes (Liberal Democrat), Virendra Sharma (Labour) and Theresa Villiers (Conservative) – are expected to attend the event.

At the end of the vigil, demonstrators will deliver a memorandum to Downing Street, urging the prime minister to honour the call he made in October for an independent investigation into the allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses.

The president of the Global Tamil Forum, which represents the diaspora, said it was time for a proper investigation.

"This is one of those memories that we, the Tamils, the world and the world leaders could do without," said Father SJ Emmanuel.

"As Tamils we have been waiting for two long years to this day, seeking justice for our dead, injured and orphaned in many thousands.

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