COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's military has rejected allegations that the arrest of a woman and her daughter who were searching for their kin missing from the country's civil war was an act of retribution.
Human rights activists said Thursday's arrest of Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year-old daughter Vibhooshika is part of the government's continuing efforts to intimidate families of the missing from the civil war.
Government forces defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, but Tamil civilians complain the whereabouts of many of their relatives who heeded a call to surrender and those who were arrested are not known.
Jeyakumari was prominent during protests calling for the release of her 15-year-old son, a child conscript of the Tamil Tiger rebels. Her daughter also joined her in protests.
A court ordered Jeyakumari to be detained for 16 days under the country's tough anti-terrorism law. Her daughter was kept in the care of probation officials.
Military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement that the two were arrested for harboring a former rebel who shot at police and fled when they tried to catch him.
He said one policeman was wounded.
He said that the actions by authorities were carried out to "ensure peace, territorial integrity and national unity."
Jeyakumari's son had surrendered to the military at the end of the fighting in 2009, but his family had not been told of his whereabouts.
She has a strong case against the government because it published a photograph of her son in a government book depicting rehabilitation of rebel fighters, rights activists say.
The arrests came as the UN Human Rights Council reviews Sri Lanka's record, including the issue of missing persons and its failure to investigate war crimes allegations against both government and Tamil Tiger rebels.
The United States has sponsored a third resolution on Sri Lanka at the rights council calling for an international probe on alleged war crimes if the island nation fails to conduct one of its own.