News / Asia

Sri Lanka Denies Accusations of Abusing Tamils

Henry Ridgwell
Newly-discovered photographs have raised questions over the death of a Sri Lankan rebel leader's son in 2009.  The photos will be shown at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which plans to discuss alleged atrocities against Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.  Sri Lanka accuses the Council of bias.  

The group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka says the photos show Balachandran Prabhakaran, the son of the late Tamil Tiger rebel leader, in the custody of government soldiers in May 2009.

Another photo, which the journalists say was taken two hours later, appears to show the same 12-year-old boy lying dead on the ground with five bullet wounds in his chest.

The photos, and additional video footage, appear to contradict government accounts that the boy was killed in crossfire, says the head of Amnesty International India, G. Ananthapadmanabhan.

“We think they are credible evidence that needs investigation, but we cannot exactly say at this point what exactly happened," said Ananthapadmanabhan. "But having said that, even the thought that a 12-year-old boy could be executed in that fashion is quite horrifying."

The alleged killing happened during fierce fighting as the civil war between the government and armed Tamil separatists known as the LTTE, was coming to an end.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam doubts the veracity of the pictures.

"This footage for us is kind of morphed in a way that this series of photographs doesn't add up, so we totally reject this," said Kariyawasam. "We have no doubt that Prabhakaran's son died, but he was a victim of that battle at that time."

The group Human Rights Watch says abuses against Tamils took place long after the civil war - in many cases to extract information or to force confessions.  Video footage taken by the group shows victims with scars across their backs.  One of them, given the name "DK," says he was tortured in 2012.

“They beat me severely. They burned cigarettes on my back. I was sexually abused. They hanged me upside down and beat me. My body was full of bruises. They submerged my head in water," he said.

David Mepham is UK Director of Human Rights Watch.

“We’ve got 75 cases where we are very clear that the evidence is compelling and that these people were subject to rape and sexual violence," said Mepham. "And overwhelmingly this is violence carried out by members of the Sri Lankan security forces.”

Sri Lanka says the allegations are fabricated by Tamils seeking asylum overseas.

For the second year in a row, the United States is sponsoring a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council calling on Sri Lanka to cease what it calls rights abuses.

Sri Lanka's presidential envoy on human rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, claims the U.N. council is biased.

“We have put in place structures for discussion and implementation of solutions," said Samarasinghe. "However, we are being told that our chosen path is perhaps the wrong one. It is supposedly deficient. We must be lectured to or even taught. We must be instructed by people who know little of our history, culture or socio-political background."

Sri Lanka is due to host the Commonwealth summit in November this year. Canada has threatened to boycott the meeting unless Colombo addresses the allegations of atrocities.

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