|Sri Lanka denies abuses, says probes nearly complete|
|Wednesday, 28 January 2009|
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Sri Lanka said on Tuesday it was doing its best to minimise civilian war casualties and that probes into incidents including the killing of workers for a French aid group were nearly complete.
European Union officials told visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Monday Sri Lanka needed to show it was implementing U.N. rights conventions for the EU to continue to offer it trade concessions.
The EU executive expressed concern about harassment, arrests and killings of journalists, and the rising number of civilian casualties in fighting between the government and Tamil Tigers.
Bogollagama told a news conference on Tuesday there had been no official involvement in abuses.
"We are very confident there are no violations in the system for us to be lowered as far as the human rights record is concerned ... and there is a conscious pursuit of any violations."
He said commissions of inquiry set up to investigate high profile cases had been hampered in the past by lack of access to conflict zones but now were making progress.
"Most of the cases are now nearing completion," he said. "And in one of the cases, where there were 17 aid workers associated with the French INGO, the ACF ... soon we expect a report to come out of that.
Nordic truce monitors blamed security forces for the killings of the Sri Lankan tsunami aid workers in August 2006. The government and the Tamil Tigers blamed each other.
Bogollagama said the government was doing all it could to minimise civilian war casualties and repeated allegations, also levelled by rights groups, that the Tamil Tigers were using civilians as human shields.
He said the government had established "no fire" zones to allow civilians to reach safe area, but the Tigers, formally the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were taking advantage.
"The LTTE ... has started creating havoc in terms of targeting the military from the no-fire zones," he said, and many people including U.N. personnel, had been trapped as a result.
Justice Minister Amarasiri Dodangoda said there was "a very serious" investigation going on into this month's killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. "I hope that it would be finished as soon as possible," he said.
Bogollagama said the perpetrators would be arrested, but questioned why an editor should have written an editorial prophesying his death, as his Sunday Leader paper said he had.
He said the obvious thing for a person to do if they knew they were about to be killed would be to tell the authorities, not to waste time writing an editorial. "That is reasonably expected of an average person, in any human being," he said.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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