Aid massacre ‘result of impunity’ - TRO

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 August 2006, 15:37 GMT]
Joining several humanitarian organizations in condemning the massacre of the 17 ACF staff members in Muthur, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) said the failure to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks on its own aid workers in January 2006 had contributed to a climate of impunity.

“This horrific crime has taken the lives of 17 persons who were engaged in bringing relief and humanitarian assistance to those who were suffering as a result of the 2004 tsunami and the ongoing conflict.

“These 17 persons dedicated their lives to helping others and their lives were taken by the deliberate act of some criminals. This act can not go unpunished.

“Since the abduction, and disappearance, of the 7 TRO employees in January, there has been an air of impunity. The investigations produced no results or reports, and the criminal acts against humanitarian workers continued.

“This [latest] incident is the end product of this lack of investigation and accountability by the authorities.

“It's unfortunate that the myriad of initiatives and appeals undertaken by the TRO (appeals to the International Community, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, President of Sri Lanka, press conferences, etc) to release the abducted TRO humanitarian workers went unheard and remain unsolved, thus reinforcing the deep-rooted culture of impunity that exists in Sri Lanka,” the TRO said.

The repeated plea to the GOSL and to the International Community by the TRO to provide safety and security for all humanitarian workers in the NorthEast were ignored and not given due attention, the Tamil agency said.

“This is yet another incident which sadly reflects the indifference and lack of empathy afforded to people working under volatile political conditions,” TRO added.

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.

Despite repeated appeals by local and international human rights groups, the TRO workers have never been found. Promises by the Sri Lankan government to investigate the disappearances has been dismissed by the TRO which insists the security forces and its paramilitaries are responsible.

Shortly after the TRO abductions, Army-backed paramilitaries entered the offices of MAG (Mines Advisory Group) in Batticaloa on February 22 and beat a local staffer working at the office, and threatened the British national heading the Batticaloa office of MAG

On May 21, 2006, grenades were thrown at the Muthur offices of Nonviolent Peaceforce, injuring a Serbian peaceworker and two passing civilians.

At the same time, the offices of two humanitarian NGOs in Muthur, including ZOA Refugee Care, were also attacked with grenades.

Other aid workers in Muthur have been attacked by Sinhalese mobs in recent days. Supplies sent by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for displaced Muslims and Tamils have been blocked by angry Sinhalese in the Trincomalee district.

Sinhala hardliners in Sri Lanka routinely accuse aid agencies and NGOs of being pro-Tamil and backing the Tamil Tigers.


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