ACF wants intl probe into SL killings

COLOMBO: French charity Action Against Hunger (ACF) on Saturday demanded an international probe into the massacre of 17 of its Sri Lankan employees after a government investigation failed to identify suspects.

The ACF in a statement accused the Sri Lankan authorities of lacking the will to find those responsible for the deaths in the northeastern town of Muttur in August 2006.

"One cannot but notice that these procedures have failed, and that the Sri Lankan government obviously lacks will to establish the truth," the statement said.

"Action Against Hunger reiterates its call, notably to the European Union, to constitute an internationalised inquiry into this massacre."

The statement came after a Sri Lankan investigation cleared the military of killing the 17 employees of the charity and ordered more compensation for the families of the victims.

The Commission of Inquiry in its final report to President Mahinda Rajapakse said neither the army nor the navy was present in the area as alleged when the massacre took place, two privately-run newspapers said this week.

Thirteen men and four women who worked on water sanitation and farm projects for ACF were found shot dead in an area where government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels were locked in combat.

Nordic peace monitors at the time blamed the killings -- the worst attack on aid workers since the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 -- on government forces.

The government has denied any role.

The Island and the Daily Mirror newspapers quoted from the commission report, which had not been made public by the authorities yet. The mandate of the inquiry ended a month ago and the government did not extend its term.

The Island newspaper said the inquiry accused the ACF of "gross negligence" and recommended that the charity pay 10 years' salary to the families of the victims.

The commission, headed by retired judge Nissanka Udalagama, has been dismissed by rights activists as a government cover-up.

Colombo did appoint 11 senior foreign diplomats and dignitaries to supervise the probe, but they eventually pulled out in April 2008 saying that the investigations did not meet minimum international standards.