2nd lead: adds TRO comments
Sri Lanka ‘blocking massacre probe’ - SLMM
[TamilNet, Saturday, 12 August 2006, 12:13 GMT]
Sri Lankan authorities are deliberately hampering efforts to investigate the murder of 17 aid workers, some of whose relatives blame the military, the island's chief truce monitor said on Saturday. “I have experienced this in the Balkans before. When you're not let in, it's a sign that there's something they want to hide,” retired Maj. Gen. Ulf Henricsson, who heads the unarmed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) told Reuters.
Gen. Henricsson, Head of SLMM (Photo: Sunday Observer, Avinash Bandara)
Relatives of some of the 17 Action Contre La Faim (ACF) staff shot dead execution-style in Muttur town last week blamed Sri Lankan security forces for the killings.
The international community, from the United States to the United Nations, demands a transparent investigation into one of the worst massacres of aid workers in living memory.
But the Sri Lankan government is denying Nordic truce monitors access to the site, Reuters quoted the SLMM chief as saying.
“You have a lot of time to clear it up. If there was clear evidence for the LTTE to have done it, why not let us in to see it? I think the government makes the situation worse for themselves, because the truth will come out,” Henricsson said.
“They are denying us access to the whole area, so we cannot monitor. There were journalist trips arranged to Mutur last Saturday and Sunday. That was possible, but we had no access. Why? For security reasons? Of course not. There are other reasons.”
Henricsson’s monitors say there is evidence that troops have been involved in extrajudicial killings of Tamils in the war-ravaged north and east.
15 of the ACF staff had been found dead on the floor of their ruined office, while two had been gunned down while apparently trying to escape in a car. In the office, the bodies, clad in ACF T-shirts, had bullet wounds and most of them lay face down.
All except one, a Muslim, were Tamils.
Last week, joining the rest of the humanitarian community in condemning of the massacre of the ACF staff, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) said the failure to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks on its own aid workers in the past had contributed to a climate of impunity.
Ten TRO staff members were kidnapped by Army-backed paramilitaries in Batticaloa district on January 30, 2006. Three were released, but the other seven have ‘disappeared’ and many believe they have been killed in custody.