Sri Lankan rights group blames military for deaths of aid workers
Tue April 1, 2008 08:50 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A human rights group blamed Sri Lankan security forces on Tuesday for the massacre of 17 aid workers 20 months ago, saying police and paramilitary forces shot the victims as they knelt on the ground and begged for their lives. European monitors earlier blamed Sri Lanka - 's security forces for the killings. The government denied the allegations and blamed the rebels.
University Teachers for Human Rights, a respected local group, issued a 29-page report Tuesday that claimed to describe the killings of the 17 in the eastern town of Muttur in August 2006, after a fierce battle between troops and Tamil rebels.
The slain workers all but one of whom were members of the ethnic minority Tamil ethnic group were working on tsunami-relief projects at the time.
The researchers spoke to the victims' families and residents of the town more than a dozen people in all and received information from within the police force, said Rajan Hoole, a spokesman for the group. They also talked to the people who collected the bodies, and carried out their own forensic analysis of the ammunition at the scene, he said.
According to the report, two police officers and one paramilitary home guard accompanied by a team of commandos entered the offices where the aid workers had holed up, accused them of helping the rebels, forced them to kneel down and summarily executed them as they screamed for mercy.
The security forces then covered up their role in the killings, the report said.
In response to the international outcry over the massacre, the government set up a commission of inquiry 18 months ago which has not yet resolved the case.
An international panel of experts appointed to advise the commission resigned and stopped working Monday, saying the probe did not meet international standards and accusing the government of lacking the will to investigate the incidents.
Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said Tuesday that those concerned needed to remain patient.
``What we should do is wait for the outcome of the inquiry before rushing to judgment,'' he said. He branded the university teachers' report ``a grave injustice to those looking forward to a just result from this inquiry.''Discuss this story
Published: Tue Apr 1 11:00:02 EDT 2008