Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka candidate denies Tiger rebels shot

News and Press Release
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By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO, Dec 14 (Reuters) - General Sarath Fonseka, who is challenging President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a January election, denied on Monday having said government soldiers shot surrendering Tamil Tiger rebels, adding no such incidents happened.

The Sri Lankan government had earlier denounced reported comments by the general, carried in an opposition newspaper, that senior rebels who were to surrender with white flags on May 17 were ordered to be killed by the government.

Fonseka at a special media briefing on Monday said the pro-opposition Sunday Leader had reported remarks of his out of context. He said senior rebels had not sought surrender with white flags nor had the military fired at surrendering cadres.

"They (army soldiers) never committed any criminal act. There was no any attempt of surrender on May 17,18 and 19," Fonseka told reporters, referring to the last three days of the war with the Tiger rebels.

The government had said it was seeking legal advice over the allegations in the article in the pro-opposition paper.

"The government totally denies this allegation," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinge told reporters. Fonseka's successor, Lieutenant-General Jagath Jayasuriya, said: "We reject (these) malicious allegations against our heroic soldiers."

Fonseka said on Monday he would take full responsibility if any rights violations or breach of international law had occurred when he commanded the army in the final stages of the quarter century war.

The government declared victory in the war after killing rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in late May.

Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president's brother, led the government campaign that brought an end to the insurgency, which aimed to create a separate homeland for the island's Tamil minority.

Both sides were accused of human rights violations and atrocities during the long conflict.

Rights groups and Western governments are pressing for some kind of accountability for thousands of civilian deaths in the final phase of the war.

The government has denied charges of deliberately targeting civilians, and said Tiger fighters forcibly kept thousands of unwilling civilians with them in their last redoubts.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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