Commonwealth summit opens in Sri Lanka amid allegations of abuse | News | DW | 15.11.2013
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Commonwealth summit opens in Sri Lanka amid allegations of abuse

A Commonweath summit has opened in Sri Lanka with the host facing criticism over alleged rights abuses. Three countries have boycotted the summit over Sri Lanka's refusal to allow an international inquiry into the issue.

Host Sri Lanka opened a summit of the 53-nation Commonwealth on Friday, welcoming leaders from Britain and its former territories, amid criticism over its human rights record.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa - in his opening speech - said fellow leaders should not turn the bloc into a "punitive or judgemental body."

The Colombo gathering is being boycotted by leaders of Canada, India and Mauritius.

Cameron flies to Jaffna

Shortly after the opening, British Prime Minister David Cameron left the Colombo venue and flew on to Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna region.

For more than two decades until 2009 bitter fighting between Tamil rebels and troops of the majority Sinhalese government cost some 100,000 lives.

Several women, reportedly relatives of those killed, hurled themselves in front of Cameron's motorcade in Jaffna, screaming "we want justice."

Inequality remains, says editor

Cameron later toured the offices of a Tamil newspaper which has lost five staff in attacks since Rajapaksa came to power in 2005.

The paper's editor, M.V Kaanamylnathan, said it was a pretence that Tamils had equal rights.

"It's not true," he told the news agency AFP in Jaffna. "This needs to be told to the international world."

Shelling blamed for deaths

A UN panel found in 2011 that the Buddhist Sinhalese-majority government's offensive against the Tamil separatist rebels may have killed as many as 40,000 people in 2009 as the war ended.

The panel found that while both sides committed atrocities in the conflict, deaths were mostly due to Sri Lankan military shelling.

Tamils protest in Jaffna

Protests have been banned in Colombo during the conference. Presiding at the opening was Britain's Prince Charles.

Ethnic Tamils make up about 12 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million.

hc/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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