Human rights group demand probe of abuses in Sri Lanka

GENEVA, Sept 22 (AFP) – International and Sri Lankan human rights campaigners on Friday called for a United Nations inquiry into abuses against civilians by Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces on the strife-torn island. They urged the UN Human Rights Council, the world body’s top watchdog forum, to launch a probe as soon as possible and also create a longer-term monitoring mission to try to hold the perpetrators to account.

“We’re asking the Council to create a sustained, field-based presence for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We’re asking for an international, independent commission of inquiry,” said Sunila Abeysekera, head of INFORM, a group which logs human rights abuses and is based in Colombo.

More than 1,500 people have died in an upsurge of tit-for-tat violence in Sri Lanka over the past 10 months, although the warring parties agreed last week to try to revive a February 2002 truce.

“Sadly, and tragically, our country now ranks with Lebanon and Darfur as a place in which the distinctions between civilians and combatants have been blurred considerably,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, which seeks ways to end Sri Lanka