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External probe sought for massacre

world Updated: Aug 04, 2009 15:18 IST

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A Human Rights group on Tuesday demanded an international inquiry into the execution-style slaying of 17 workers of a French aid agency in Sri Lanka three years ago, after a government inquiry reportedly failed to identify the killers.

New York based Human Rights Watch said, for three years, no one has been arrested or convicted of the killing of local Sri Lankan employees of Action Against Hunger who were assisting in reconstruction following the 2004 tsunami.

They were found dead in August 2006 in a region rocked by heavy fighting between government soldiers and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. At the time, European monitors said, they were "convinced" government troops were involved, but the government blamed the rebels.

The Rights group said on Tuesday that the "government's gross mishandling of the investigation" raised further concerns about the investigation and demonstrates "the need for an international commission of inquiry."

The government, under intense international pressure, appointed a Presidential Commission, two years ago to probe wartime abuses including aid workers' massacre. Last month, the commission exonerated the military of any involvement in the massacre, according to newspaper reports.

The independent Island and Daily Mirror newspapers published extracts from its final report, which was handed over to President Mahinda Rajapaksa last month. The report has not been made public, and the newspapers did not say how they obtained the extracts. The commission chairman told The Associated Press last month that according to evidence, Tamil Tiger fighters were in the vicinity at the time. However, he said the investigation was incomplete and he declined further comment.

Action Against Hunger has also deplored the outcome of the investigation and urged for an international inquiry to identify the killers.

"For three years, the Rajapaksa government has put on an elaborate song and dance to bedazzle the international community into believing justice is being done," said James Ross, Human Rights Watch's legal and policy director.

"It's the time for U.N. and concerned governments to say, the show is over and put into place a serious international inquiry," he said. There was no immediate comment from the government, but officials have repeatedly rejected such calls as a violation of Sri Lankan sovereignty.

Rights groups have accused the government of failing to investigate seriously.