Lanka still holding 11,000 Tamil prisoners

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Washington, Dec. 4 (ANI): Despite claiming that it has freed all Tamil civilians this week, Sri Lanka is still holding over 11,000 Tamil prisoners, including children without charge in closely guarded "rehabilitation centres."

The group of prisoners, inaccessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is allegedly a "combatant category" that includes former Tamil Tiger (LTTE) fighters.

However, the definition of "Tamil Tiger" is unclear, as many youths forcibly recruited by the hardcore Tiger cadres during the final stages of their collapse and their family members are also being held captive, The Times reports.

"Under-age LTTE fighters, as well as most of those who surrendered, are sent to these camps while senior LTTE cadres are held in CID custody then sent directly to Boosa Prison near Galle. The ICRC registered all of these prisoners, after which they informed their families of their whereabouts. But since the ICRC access was stopped it has left a big gap which still hasn't been replaced," a former ICRC staff member said.

According to reports, slain LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's parents are being held in the notorious "4th Floor" detention complex in Colombo. They are in their seventies and had long been alienated from their son by his terrorist activities.

About 300,000 Tamil civilians were caught up in fighting earlier this year as the Sri Lankan military made its final push against the Tigers, which used civilians as human shields.

The last 130,000 prisoners were set free this week. But there is now concern over the fate of the 11,000 still being held.

Recent reports suggest that the country's authorities have authorised a new round of arrests over the past few weeks among civilians on the point of release.

Father V. Yogeswaran, director of the Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in Trincomalee, said: "I've got between 30 and 40 cases in which families have been released here from the detention centres, only to have their men folk taken away at the final moment to a so-called rehabilitation centre. (ANI)

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