Sri Lanka to speed up cases of Tamil rebel detainees


Colombo: The Sri Lankan government is to look into speeding up investigations against former Tamil rebels in custody, officials said Tuesday, more than 18 months after the war ended.

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A four-member committee, headed by an official from the attorney general’s department, is to study the cases of the ex-rebels and make recommendations to the government about expediting their investigations, they said.

Some of those in custody have been arrested with no clear evidence against them, and Tamil political parties and rights groups have called on the government to accelerate the investigations against the suspects and either charge or release them.

The committee plans to visit the detainees, including a visit Wednesday to a camp in Boosa in southern Sri Lanka, the officials said.

Deputy Solicitor General S. Fernando heads the committee which includes three other government lawyers.

The committee was appointed on a recommendation made by a panel investigating the events of the last eight years of the conflict with the rebels, who were fighting for a separate homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

The panel known as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission is holding public sittings to hear evidence from a range of people, including military personnel, politicians, clergy and aid workers about a conflict in which both sides were accused of abuses.

More than 5,000 former rebels, including women, are in custody. Some of the investigations have been pending for several years.

The detainees include rebels who surrendered during the final stages of the military operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended with the rebels’ defeat in May 2009 after 26 years of fighting.