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Police, Soldiers Arrested for Abductions and Killings in Sri Lanka


In Sri Lanka, the government says it has arrested security personnel in connection with a series of killings and abductions in which most of the victims are from the minority Tamil community. As Anjana Pasricha reports from VOA's New Delhi bureau, the government has come under mounting pressure to halt rights abuses by both the military and Tamil Tiger rebels since their truce broke down.

Sri Lankan officials say they have arrested about 400 people - including security personnel - in the past few months as part of a crack down on abductions and disappearances.

National Security and Defense Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, who is also Minister for Policy Development and Implementation, told VOA about 20 former and current soldiers and police are among those being investigated.

"The government is doing everything very transparently, and these things do happen across the world." he said. "And the important thing is for us to take immediate measures which we have done."

International rights groups note that abuses have been on the rise since the government and Tamil Tiger rebels resumed fighting last year - breaking a five-year-old truce.

The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission says nearly a hundred abductions and disappearances have been reported this year. Many of them have taken place in government-controlled territory, and most of the victims are members of the minority Tamil community.

But both the military and rebels sides are being blamed for committing abuses.

Amnesty International is welcoming the government's crackdown, but the group's researcher on Sri Lanka, Yolanda Foster, says more needs to be done.

"What we would prefer is that there is an international human rights monitoring mechanism," she said. "What we are interested in is that inquiries are impartial and that the investigations are followed through, because the history of official investigation has not really been able to identify and prosecute perpetrators."

Rambukwella however rejects the idea of an international mission, saying the government has already established a special investigative commission for rights abuses.

But foreign governments are also concerned - including the United States. Just this week, in its annual report on human rights, the U.S. State Department noted that in 2006 "the government's respect for the human rights of its citizens declined due in part to the breakdown of the truce."

Sri Lanka's quarter-century-long civil war halted after a truce came into effect in 2002. But peace talks stalled and fighting has resumed in the north and the east of the country, where Tamil rebels want to establish an autonomous homeland.