* Activists denounce impunity for crimes in long civil war
* Seek justice for murders of 17 aid workers, 5 students
* Sri Lanka rejects calls for accountability at U.N.
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Nov 5 Leading human rights groups called
on Monday for an independent international inquiry to
investigate massacres of civilians and aid workers during Sri
Lanka's three-decade civil war after accusing the government of
having failed to do so.
Families of victims, including 17 staff of Action Contre la
Faim (ACF) executed in Muttur in 2006, and five students shot
dead in Trincomalee that year, joined the call for justice.
The appeal came after Sri Lanka's delegation formally
rejected key recommendations by states calling for
accountability at the U.N. Human Rights Council, which examined
its record last week.
"I want an international inquiry and international judgment,
otherwise I am not satisfied," Dr. K. Manoharan, whose
21-year-old son Ragihar was killed on Trincomalee beach in Jan.
2006, told a news briefing.
Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka expert at Amnesty International,
said those responsible for atrocities in the war between the
army and separatist Tamil Tigers still had not been prosecuted
more than three years after the conflict ended in May 2009.
"The Trincomalee 5 case along with the ACF case is sort of
emblematic of a culture of impunity in Sri Lanka where security
forces are given carte blanche to continue to commit violations
because the state is failing to independently investigate and
prosecute," Foster told reporters.
Benoit Miribel, president of the French group Action Contre
la Faim, said its 17 aid workers were shot in the back of the
head in their Muttur compound in August 2006.
"In reality, the investigation has been a succession of
obstruction, interference, of politics in the judiciary and a
lack of transparency and independence...Nothing has really
happened during the last six years."
A U.N.-sponsored panel, whose findings have been rejected by
the Sri Lankan authorities, has said that the army committed
large-scale abuses and was responsible for many civilian deaths
in the final stages of the war against the Tamil rebels.
Sri Lanka's delegation, led by Mahinda Samarasinghe, said
last week a court was probing 50 incidents in a report issued a
year ago by its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
But activists said that this did not go far enough and that
no data base had been set up to help families trace the missing.
Ian Seiderman, legal and policy director of the
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), said Sri Lanka has
consistently rejected cooperation with U.N. rights mechanisms.
"This really underscores the need for a proper full-scale
international inquiry," he told reporters.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Michael Roddy)