Sri Lankan combatants 'racist'

An inquiry into the disappearance of more than 300 Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka has charged both government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels of perpetuating institutional racism.

    A probe team had identified 44 military personnel alleged to have committed excesses

    A panel appointed by Sri Lanka's Human Rights Commission which

    examined 327 cases of disappearance between 1990 and 1998 was unable

    to trace a single victim, but found alleged perpetrators had

    developed amnesia.

    "We have faulted the police and armed forces for institutional

    racism, we fault the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) too on

    this account for specially targeting Muslim leaders for arrest," the

    report, which was released on Wednesday, said.

    Amnesia

    Sri Lankan Tamils constitute about 12.6% of the 18.6

    million population, while Muslims make up about 7.5%. The

    Sinhalese are the majority community, making up 74% of the

    population.

    "We have faulted the police and armed forces for institutional

    racism, we fault the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) too on

    this account for specially targeting Muslim leaders for arrest"

    Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission report 

    A member of the investigating panel, MCM Iqbal said a member

    of the LTTE had been identified by Muslims as being responsible for

    the disappearance of 35 Muslim men in 1990, but the man could

    not remember anything.

    "We have no evidence to come to any conclusion except to hold

    the LTTE responsible for the disappearance of each of these 25

    Muslims, the complaints in respect of which evidence was heard by

    the committee.

    "Nothing could be said about the remaining 10

    complaints regarding Muslims who disappeared as no evidence was

    available to the committee," said the report.

    Military excesses

    Iqbal added the probe team had identified 44 military personnel

    alleged to have committed excesses.

    As a result of the hearings, the team managed to secure 50,000

    rupees ($531) for the families of two children shot and killed by a

    soldier in the northern peninsula of Jaffna

    .

    The Tigers and the government are currently engaged in a

    Norwegian-backed peace process with a ceasefire holding since

    February last year.

    Both have agreed to commit to a human rights declaration, but a

    suspension of direct face-to-face talks since March has held up

    progress.

    Sri Lanka's missing

    The Tamil Tigers have been
    condemned for attacking Muslims

    The international Committee of the Red Cross said in February

    that it had begun reopening files on about 11,000 people missing in

    Sri Lanka and would set up a system to establish the fate of

    the victims.

    Amnesty International, in a 1997 report said nearly 600 Tamils

    who disappeared after being taken into military custody in the

    Jaffna peninsula in 1996 had been killed.

    "There is no evidence to suggest that sanction for the

    'disappearances' came from the political leadership," the report

    said.

    "But the Sri Lankan government reacted too slowly to well

    documented reports of a rise in disappearances."

    The LTTE also came under criticism for "indiscriminate killings

    of civilians during attacks on checkpoints or army patrols and

    summary executions of suspected informants", in the Amnesty report.

    SOURCE: AFP


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