U.S Bishop's concern over atrocities

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 October 1998, 03:58 GMT]
Bishop Felton Edwin May of the United Methodist Church of the Washington Episcopal Area has expressed his concern to the U.S State Department over the alleged mass graves of up to 400 civilians in Chemmani, Jaffna, and other human rights violations by Sri Lankan forces, said sources close to the Church today.

In a letter addressed to the Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth, the Bishop wrote:

"My attention is now drawn to the State Department report of March 1998 on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, which refers to over 700 reported killings of Tamils in army custody in Jaffna in 1996 and the past record of similar killings by senior army officers with impunity.

"This report has been followed by an Amnesty International statement calling for an independent and impartial investigation involving forensic experts, into recent allegations that 300 to 400 of those killed were buried in identified locations in Jaffna.

"I understand that the Sri Lankan government has not even officially responded to the allegation and that in the meantime the soldier who revealed the existence of mass graves in Jaffna suburb of Chemmani, has been severely assaulted by prison officials seeking to silence him. There are now reports alleging interference with these graves with a view to destroying evidence."

Bishop May noted that Christians worshipping in his Episcopal area are keen that the State Department should express public concern over the allegation about the mass graves.

Bishop May said they feared that "otherwise the Sri Lankan Government will perceive this as United States acquiescence in a less than impartial and comprehensive investigation, as is the case of Reverend Arulpalan killing."

Reverend Arulpalan, a Catholic Priest from Tamil Nadu was murdered in September 1997, along with two companions in the Vanni region, allegedly by Sri Lanka army (SLA) troops. The mutilated bodies were later found close to SLA positions.

Despite expressed assurances from the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and SLA General Balagalle (the Army commander in Jaffna), no investigation has been conducted for a transparent resolution of the case, say human rights workers.

 

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