Murder, abductions rise in 'liberated' Sri Lanka: rights group

25 November, 2008

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COLOMBO (AFP) — A leading human rights group on Tuesday accused a pro-government militia in eastern Sri Lanka of being behind a worsening wave of killings and child abductions.

Human Rights Watch accused the TMVP, made up of former members of the Tamil Tigers who switched sides in the bitter ethnic war, of at least 30 murders and 30 kidnappings in the east of the island in September and October.

The rights watchdog said the TMVP, which emerged as dominant political force in the east after Tamil Tiger rebels were ejected from the region 18 months ago, was able to function with "total impunity".

"The Sri Lankan government says that the liberated' east is an example of democracy in action and a model for areas recaptured from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"But killings and abductions are rife and there is total impunity for horrific abuses," Adams said.

He called on Sri Lankan authorities to "take immediate steps to address the deteriorating human rights situation in the Eastern Province, where there has been an increase in killings and abductions in recent weeks".

The New York-based watchdog said it had documented 30 cases of extra-judicial killings in the east in September and October and 30 cases of the TMVP abducting children to use as child soldiers.

"Far from being a reformed and responsible party ready for government, the TMVP is still actively involved in serious human rights abuses," Adams said of the pro-government Tamil group.

"Instead of holding the group accountable, the (President Mahinda) Rajapakse government has provided unqualified support."

"Many in the East believe that the government has given its blessing for these abuses," said Adams. "It is important for the government to take action against perpetrators to demonstrate that this is not the case."

Following the military success in taking the east, government forces are currently engaged in a bid to dismantle what is left of a de facto mini state of the Tigers in the north of the island.