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Sri-Lanka: LTTE-linked killings continue

Sri Lanka: Rights groups say LTTE-linked killings continue with impunity

There is convincing evidence that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are taking advantage of the cease-fire with the Sri Lankan government to murder political opponents, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.

"The end of the fighting in Sri Lanka has not meant an end to the killing," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "Members of Tamil political parties are being gunned down and the available evidence points to the Tamil Tigers."

Human Rights Watch issued a briefing paper today urging the Norwegian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission to aggressively investigate and make public its findings in cases of alleged political violence. In an open letter to be published on August 12, Amnesty International will call on the LTTE, the SLMM and the Sri Lankan police to take immediate action to stop these human rights abuses, and bring to justice those responsible for these crimes.

At least 22 people with links to Tamil political parties opposed to the LTTE have been killed in politically motivated attacks since the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE signed a cease-fire in February 2002. Many others have been abducted, their fate still unknown. In several instances witnesses have identified the perpetrators as members of the LTTE. All available evidence points to a systematic campaign by the LTTE to silence opposition voices.

"Any improvements to the human rights situation in Sri Lanka are now at risk of being undermined by these killings," said Ingrid Massage, interim director of the Asia Pacific Program of Amnesty International. "The use of political assassinations and violence threatens to seriously undermine moves made towards establishing a just system of governance that will serve all citizens of Sri Lanka."

The Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission consists of about 50 monitors from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland. To date the monitoring mission has interpreted its mandate narrowly. Although it has increasingly addressed complaints of abuse against civilians, especially abduction of children for recruitment and extortion cases, it has not pursued substantial investigations of alleged political killings.

"We are concerned that Norway may be reluctant to investigate these crimes for fear of compromising its role mediating talks between the LTTE and the government," Adams said. Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission to develop its capability to conduct in-depth investigations of such cases.

The Sri Lankan police and the LTTE also need to act to stop the killings. "While recognizing the difficulties the police face in investigating these crimes, this does not excuse their failure so far to bring to justice those responsible," said Massage. "Given the weight of evidence, it is the responsibility of the LTTE to immediately halt these killings and ensure its members fully abide by human rights provisions in the cease-fire agreement. They must also fully cooperate in any investigations conducted by the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission."

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