Sri Lanka military defends arresting mother of missing rebel

Updated 15 March 2014

Sri Lanka military defends arresting mother of missing rebel

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.


Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

Updated 17 min 13 sec ago

Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

NAIROBI, Kenya: Ethiopia’s prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to “stay indoors.”
The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.
The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.
Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below:
The United Nations says shortages have become “very critical” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.
Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.
Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the UN World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.
Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.
The UN has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.
But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.
Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”