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Rights groups accuse Sri Lanka over evictions

June 8, 2007 (AFP) - Human rights activists accused Sri Lanka's government Friday of imposing a "collective punishment" on its minority Tamil community after forcing hundreds of them out of the capital. Activists and opposition politicians said the expulsions from Colombo, a measure the government said was to prevent Tiger terror attacks, had added to the already serious humanitarian crisis and would fan ethnic hatred.

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"Nothing could be more inflammatory in Sri Lanka's polarised climate than identifying people by ethnicity and kicking them out of the capital," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

The rights watchdog said Thursday's operation -- an armed police swoop in the dark on temporary lodgings in Colombo -- was "blatantly discriminatory and will further fuel the conflict.

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"Tamil Tiger crimes don't give the government the right to engage in collective punishment.

By evicting thousands of Tamils, the Sri Lankan government is sending the dangerous message that it views most of its Tamil citizens as a threat to security," Human Rights Watch said.

Sri Lanka's defence ministry has insisted the move was necessary to prevent bomb attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ee

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