Aid group leaves Sri Lanka , expressing doubts about probe into massacre of its workers
Mon April 21, 2008 11:16 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) International aid group Action Against Hunger has pulled out of Sri Lanka - saying it has no trust in a government investigation into the massacre of 17 of its workers nearly two years ago, a spokeswoman said Monday.
The withdrawal of the group was the latest blow to the government's probe of the killings and several other alleged human rights abuses during its war with Tamil rebels.
Last month, an international panel of experts monitoring the government's commission of inquiry announced it was resigning in frustration. The panel criticized the probe as lethargic, said it did not meet international standards, and accused the government of lacking the will to properly investigate the incidents.
Action Against Hunger closed its Colombo office and left the country March 31, following the resignation of the panel, spokeswoman Lucile Grosjean said.
Grosjean said the presence of the panel, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, was vital for the credibility of the investigation.
``We now want an international panel to lead the inquiry. We do not have enough confidence in the Sri Lankan system,'' she said.
Grosjean said even though several different bodies were investigating the killings, none had made enough progress.
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarsinghe declined to comment on the group's pullout, saying the issue was a matter for the commission of inquiry to resolve.
The 17 local workers for Action Against Hunger were killed after a fierce battle between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in the eastern town of Muttur in August 2006.
European monitors blamed the security forces for the killings. The government denied the allegations and blamed the rebels.
A local human rights group issued a report earlier this month on its investigation into the incident, accusing police and paramilitary forces of shooting the victims as they knelt on the ground and begged for their lives.
In response to that report, Action Against Hunger called for an international inquiry into the killings. The government has rejected such an inquiry, saying it would infringe on its sovereignty.
The aid group had been working on projects such as providing food, improving agriculture and water sanitation since 1997.
``If there is a satisfactory outcome (to the investigations) maybe we could go back. There is still a lot of humanitarian work to be done,'' Grosjean said.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Apr 21 15:43:34 EDT 2008