Sri Lanka war probe lost in translation, say activists

Updated 02 October 2014
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Sri Lanka war probe lost in translation, say activists

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s domestic probe into the disappearance of thousands of civilians during and after the island’s ethnic war is being undermined by serious translation errors, a group of activists said Thursday.
Testimony before the presidential Commission of Inquiry was marred by glaring mistakes in translating questions from English-speaking investigators to ethnic Tamil witnesses, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said.
Sittings this week have been affected by errors that could undermine the quality of testimony before the commission, the CPA said, adding that witnesses were photographed by men said to be military intelligence officers.
When one witness was asked in English whether he knew where shells were fired from during fighting, the question was translated into Tamil as: “Can you tell us the camps you were at?” the CPA said.
The CPA, a private advocacy group, said that it had monitored public sittings of the commission from Sept. 27 to 30 and wanted the authorities to address their concerns.
“Lack of genuine steps at this juncture will severely undermine efforts to arrive at truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” the CPA said in a statement.
Sri Lanka widened the scope of the commission in July to probe war crimes by both the military as well as the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. The move was in the wake of international pressure for accountability and the UN setting up an international team to probe Sri Lanka’s war record.
The COI is the latest probe initiated by Colombo after several of its own previous inquiries were widely condemned as whitewashes.
Set up in August last year, it has received over 19,470 complaints of missing people, but has so far only heard oral evidence in respect of 939 cases, according to its website.
About 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians are said to have been killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, a charge Colombo has long denied.
The 1972-2009 conflict claimed 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.


Search for Spanish toddler in well enters fifth day

Updated 13 min 19 sec ago
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Search for Spanish toddler in well enters fifth day

  • Julen Rosello, who is two, fell down a very narrow shaft more than 100 meters deep on Sunday
  • Rescuers are unable to get to where they believe the child is as a layer of earth, sand, and stones believed to have been dragged down

TOLOTÁN, SPAIN: The search for a toddler who fell down a well in southern Spain in a tragedy that has gripped the country entered its fifth day Thursday, with hopes dwindling he would be found alive.
Julen Rosello, who is two, fell down a very narrow shaft more than 100 meters (330 feet) deep on Sunday while playing as his parents had lunch nearby in the town of Totalan near Malaga, family members said.
Rescuers are unable to get to where they believe the child is as a layer of earth, sand, and stones believed to have been dragged down by Julen when he fell have blocked the well.
The toddler is believed to be underneath and the discovery of several strands of his hair by rescuers appears to confirm that theory.
As such, they are digging two tunnels, one parallel to the well and another at an angle aiming to reach Julen.
But the work is complicated by the state of the soil.
Engineer Juan Lopez told reporters that the vertical tunnel was progressing “for the moment without too many problems.”
But the horizontal one is causing “problems,” he added. Excavating that tunnel “within less than two days is really complicated,” he said.
This race-against-time recalls several other high-profile cases in the 1980s.
Alfredo Rampi, an Italian boy, was found dead in a well near Rome in 1981 while Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old girl, was rescued alive from a well in Texas in October 1987 after more than two days inside.