Sri Lanka pulled up over aid worker massacre

New York, August 1 (IANS) Sri Lanka has made no real progress in holding accountable those responsible for the execution style slaying of 17 aid workers seven years ago, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

On Aug 4, 2006, gunmen executed 17 Sri Lankan aid workers - 16 Tamils and a Muslim - with the Paris-based international humanitarian agency Action Against Hunger or ACF at their office compound in Mutur town.

The killings occurred after a several-day battle between government forces and the now vanquished Tamil Tigers for control of the town. The ACF team had been providing assistance to survivors of the 2004 tsunami.

"The Rajapaksa government is good at throwing bones to the international community, but not at taking serious measures to find and punish those responsible for serious abuses," said James Ross of Human Rights Watch.

"If the families of 17 aid workers can't get justice for their loss, it's hard to be hopeful for anyone else."

In July, the Rajapaksa government, in apparent response to increasing international pressure, took long overdue steps by directing state lawyers and investigators to review the case and prepare a comprehensive list of witnesses.

This was one of several recent moves by the government to adopt previously disregarded recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in 2011, created following the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has long had a poor record of investigating serious human rights abuses, and impunity has been a persistent problem, Human Rights Watch said.

Despite a backlog of cases of unlawful killings and enforced disappearance going back two decades that run into the tens of thousands, there have been only a small number of prosecutions, it added.