The Sri Lankan military was not operating in the area when 17 workers for a French aid agency were gunned down execution-style in 2006, the chairman of a government commission investigating the massacre said Tuesday.
Nissanka Udalagama — head of the presidential commission of inquiry charged with probing rights abuses during Sri Lanka‘s decades-long civil war — told The Associated Press no government forces were present during the slaying of 17 Sri Lankans who worked for Action Against Hunger in August 2006.
At the time of the killings, European monitors said they were “convinced” government troops were involved. The government denied the charge and accused Tamil Tiger rebels of involvement.
The 17 aid workers were found shot dead in the eastern town of Muttur amid heavy fighting between government soldiers and the rebels.
Udalagama said according to evidence, Tamil Tiger fighters were in the vicinity at the time. However, he said the investigation was incomplete and declined further comment.
Rights groups have accused the government of failing to seriously investigate reported abuses during the 25-year war and have called for an international commission to probe abuse allegations. The government has repeatedly rejected such calls as a violation of its sovereignty.
The presidential commission was assigned two years ago to investigate 16 cases of alleged abuses by both sides in the war, but only managed to complete seven cases. Udalagama said it could not finish its investigation as its mandate expired last month.
The independent Island newspaper reported Tuesday that the commission’s final report had cleared the military of any involvement in the massacre.
The commission’s final report has not been made public after it was handed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa two weeks ago, and the newspaper didn’t say how it was obtained.
The Tamil Tigers rebel were defeated on the battlefield in May, ending their quarter-century rebellion for a homeland for minority ethnic Tamils. More than 70,000 people died in the conflict.