Rights Group: Rights of Tamil Suspects Violated

By: Fisnik Abrashi & Bharatha Mallawarachi - AP Writers
By: Fisnik Abrashi & Bharatha Mallawarachi - AP Writers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - Sri Lanka should end the indefinite detention of some of the 11,000 people held in its custody for suspected links with the Tamil Tiger rebels, a leading rights group said Tuesday.

A report by New-York based Human Rights Watch said the
government should identify which detainees with suspected rebel
links present a genuine threat and release the rest. Sri Lanka's
human rights minister said he had not seen the report, and would
respond to it later.

The suspects were detained during and after the Sri Lankan
military's final offensive against the Tamil rebels, which ended
with the rebel group's defeat in May and brought to a close decades
of civil war.

"The government has denied detainees the right to be informed
of specific reasons for their arrest, to challenge the lawfulness
of the detention before an independent judicial authority, and to
have access to legal counsel and family members," the group said.

At the end of the war more than a quarter million Tamils were
placed into government-run camps to be screened for rebel ties as
their home villages were cleared of mines.

Some 100,000 civilians still live in those camps. Those with
suspected Tiger ties are held in separate facilities the government
calls "rehabilitation centers."

The group also said it was concerned because a lack of
information about the fate of detainees raised the possibility that
some may have been tortured or mistreated or may have
"disappeared."

Meanwhile, another rights group called on the government to end
what it called a crackdown on opposition supporters, political
activists and journalists that began after last month's
presidential election.

Amnesty International said Monday that journalists have
disappeared, been arrested or threatened with death and opposition
supporters harassed since the Jan. 26 election.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa beat his former army chief, Sarath
Fonseka, in a landslide victory. Both men are considered war heroes
after ending the country's civil war.

"Victory against the Tamil Tigers followed by an historic
election should have ended political repression in Sri Lanka, but
instead we have seen a serious clampdown on freedom of
expression," said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific deputy
director.

The group said it has received a list of 56 journalists who face
serious threats, including some working for state-run media
institutions.


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