03/04/2014, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Church calls for an international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
Members of the clergy in northern and eastern Sri Lanka send an official letter to the United Nations Council for Human Rights (UNHRC) in which they slam "disappearances, sexual abuse, arrests, detention, torture, restrictions on religious freedom" and other violations that take place in the country.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Some 205 members of the Catholic Church in northern and eastern Sri Lanka are calling for an international investigation into the crimes that took place during almost 30 years of civil war and for a stop to the human rights violations that are still happening today in Sri Lanka.

They made their request to the United Nations Council for Human Rights (UNHRC) in a letter in which they call for concrete answers to the demand among Sri Lankans for peace and reconciliation, especially among Tamils.

Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar and a prominent figure in the fight for human rights, is among the signatories.

"Neither truth, nor justice have come from the investigations conducted by the Sri Lankan government," the letter says.

"On the other hand, there have been threats and [acts of] intimidation. We are conscious that writing this letter and involving the UNHRC exposes us to risks, and many members of the clergy did not sign [for this reason], even if they agree with us."

This is not the first time that members of the clergy have had direct contact with the UN in the north and east.

This is not the first time that priests and religious have listed some of the most serious violations in the country.

As they write in their latest letter, these violations include "disappearances, sexual abuse, arrests, detention and torture under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, restrictions and attacks on freedom of assembly, expression, association and movement."

"Collective commemorations in honour of the dead, the disappeared, or for religious freedom have been hindered," the letter noted. "Anyone who criticises or questions the government on its actions, and those who work with the international community on behalf of human rights are accused of supporting terrorists or of being traitors. Even some of us have been targeted and questioned by authorities."

Finally, those who signed the letter condemn "the military's constant interference in civil and economic activities in the north and the east. Attacks and violations are spreading across the country, including attacks against the country's Muslim and Christian religious minorities."

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