London: The European Commission is to
recommend withdrawing trade benefits from Sri Lanka over
alleged human rights abuses during the civil war, a news
report said on Saturday.
In the most drastic international response yet to the
final stages of the civil war in which UN officials estimate
20,000 civilians were killed, the Commission will make the
recommendation on Monday when it formally approves and
publishes the results of a probe, The Times online reported.
Human rights groups accused the government of heavily
shelling civilian areas and the rebels of holding tens of
thousands of noncombatants as human shields during the last
stages of the ethnic war. Both sides denied the accusations.
The government continues to screen nearly 300,000 war
refugees in military-run camps for rebel fighters. Rights
groups have charged that the people in the camps are treated
poorly and are being kept there longer than necessary.
EU officials said that they were forced into action
because Sri Lanka was obliged to abide by rights agreements
and the government in Colombo had refused to co-operate.
A EU probe, which was completed in August, described
the prevalence of a culture of "complete or virtually complete
impunity in Sri Lanka". It cited police torture, abductions of
journalists and uninvestigated disappearances, the report
The withdrawal of the benefits would add about 6 per
cent to the cost of products, to make Sri Lankan goods more
expensive and force many retailers to switch to cheaper
producers from India, China and Bangladesh, the Times report
The Sri Lankan garment industry accounts for 10 per
cent of GDP, employs about 250,000 people and recorded exports
of USD 1.4 billion (£856 million) to the EU last year.
The Lankan military crushed the rebels in May, ending
three decades of civil war that killed between 80,000 and
100,000 people. The defeat of the Tamil Tigers ended their
quarter-century rebellion for a homeland for ethnic minority