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UN rights chief urges Sri Lanka to protect rights as ceasefire with Tamils expires

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] Tuesday urged [OHCHR press release] the Sri Lankan government to abide by international law as a 2002 ceasefire with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [group website; CFR backgrounder], or "Tamil Tigers," expires Wednesday. Fighting between government forces and the Tigers escalated in 2006, and last month the government announced it was pulling out of the ceasefire [AP report]. Human rights groups have pointed to abuses by both sides in the conflict, but have lately accused the government of an increased number of violations [JURIST report]. Arbour warned both sides that when the ceasefire lapses, heightened tensions could have a "devastating effect on the human rights of many Sri Lankans from all communities." She counted extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and deployment of child soldiers as international human rights violations for which supporters on each side of the conflict could face criminal charges.

After an October 2007 visit [JURIST report] to Sri Lanka, Arbour said she would support a possible UNOHCHR monitoring mission as urged by activists; the suggestion was immediately rejected by Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. Arbour emphasized the need for unbiased monitoring of possible human rights violations, including those beyond the military conflict. Reuters has more.

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