EU to cut trade benefits to Lanka over alleged rights abuses
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 has said.
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 non-combatants 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 said.
The withdrawal of the benefits would add about 6 percent 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 said.
The Sri Lankan garment industry accounts for 10 percent of GDP, employs about 250,000 people and recorded exports of USD 1.4 billion (GBP 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 Tamils.
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