Sri Lanka Holds Hearings Near Former War Frontline

A Sri Lankan government commission set up to examine the final years of the civil war has begun public hearings close to the former war frontline.

A Sri Lankan government commission set up to examine the final years of the civil war has The commission began public hearings in Colombo on Wednesdaybegun public hearings close to the former war frontline.

Sri Lankans have been invited to give testimonies to the panel - either in public or in private - in Vavuniya, in the north of the island.

The government has dismissed international calls for an independent inquiry.

Sri Lanka's 37-year conflict with the Tamil Tigers ended last year.

The UN believes at least 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final five months of the war during a government offensive against rebel-held territory.

But the Sri Lankan government denies any such scale of deaths was caused by its military.

'Reprisals'

The eight Sri Lankans chosen by the government to sit on the panel are now wading into the complexities of the former conflict zone.

They are meeting ordinary people in Vavuniya, a town now home to tens of thousands of Tamil war refugees.

They will also have hearings in refugee centres and camps where thousands of men and women said to have links with the Tamil Tigers are detained for what the government calls "rehabilitation".

The commission chairman has told the BBC that no one needs to fear testifying, as secrecy and anonymity can be guaranteed.

But a report by the US State Department this week cautioned that those who criticise the government in Sri Lanka run the risk of reprisals.

Rebels condemned

The commission's hearings so far in the capital, Colombo, have dwelt at length on the failure of a 2002 ceasefire, something which is usually blamed on the now defeated Tigers.

On Friday the panel heard from a veteran Tamil MP, V Anandasangaree, who strongly condemned the rebels for cruel behaviour.

But he also denounced the government for keeping the northern Tamils under what he called "subjugation" and for maintaining army camps in the region.

There has been relatively little discussion of the war's controversial final months and no questioning of the military's conduct at the time.

Panel members and some witnesses have strongly condemned the Tigers for allegedly keeping civilians as human shields.

 

source: bbc