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'Free detainees' says HRW
The New York-based group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed the Sri Lankan government's decision to release all civilians displaced during the war against Tamil Tiger rebels from camps in the north.

Brad Adams
Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams

But it said thousands of other Tamils, accused of having links with the rebels, remain unlawfully detained.

The Sri Lankan authorities last week said more than a hundred-and-thirty thousand civilians held in government-run camps would be granted freedom of movement from the beginning of December.

About eleven-thousand held

About eleven-thousand other Tamils are held in separate camps on suspicion of involvement with the Tamil Tigers.

"As it prepares to allow the 130,000 internally displaced persons detained in camps to decide whether to stay or leave, the Sri Lankan government should ensure that no additional persons are subject to arbitrary detentions", Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The United Nations and aid agencies have criticised the government's handling of those internally displaced, but the authorities have argued they needed the camps to screen people for possible rebel connections.

long overdue

HRW calls the government to "either bring charges" or "release" over 11,000 detainees held in "rehabilitation centres".

“The government’s promise to release displaced civilians from camps is welcome, though long overdue,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The government has been holding many Tamils for alleged involvement in the LTTE without providing them basic rights due under Sri Lankan and international law. The release of displaced persons should not be an excuse for another wave of arbitrary detentions.” says the Asia Director in his statement issued to the media.

Srilankan authorities say the arrested and surrendered Tamil Tiger suspects need to be rehabilitated before they will be released. Since the end of the war, only a few of the prominent LTTE figures appeared in court.

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