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Last updated: 09 December, 2011 - Published 17:47 GMT
 
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Dead bodies in exclusion zone - British MEP
 

 
 
War refugees
The number of civilian war deaths remains hotly disputed
A Member of the European Parliament who’s just led a delegation visiting Sri Lanka says he believes there are many bodies of dead civilians buried in exclusion zones where the final fighting of the civil war took place in 2009.

Member of European Parliament Richard Howitt said there should be full access to the areas. But the government says the zones are off-limits because there are landmines there. The number of civilian war deaths remains hotly disputed.

The delegation of Socialist Euro-MPs was permitted to pay a visit right up to the edge of the exclusion zone in north-east Sri Lanka, where tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were held by the Tamil Tigers and subjected to bombardment as the government fought the separatists.

Dead bodies are buried

No one is being allowed to resettle in that zone for the foreseeable future and a sense of fear prevails in nearby villages, the delegation’s leader, Richard Howitt, told the BBC.

“What everyone says is that it’s because [it is] literally where the bodies are buried, and that if people with forensic skills go in and investigations start, then the true horrors of what happened in those final days with so many innocent civilians said to have been killed absolutely unnecessarily, that that would come out and that the Sri Lankans will do everything to prevent that” MEP Richard Howitt said.

Army pretty disciplined

In a response to MEP’s comment Sri Lanka’s defence spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, told BBC that certain areas were still excluded for resettlement because of landmines, not because of bodies or whatever else was alleged.

“There had been no landmine deaths since the end of the war and it would be risky to send people into those zones” Minister Rambukwella said. He also expressed his “surprise” at the MEP’s remarks.

The government has built a new village for people from those areas but they’ve complained that it’s too far from the sea.

Richard Howitt had warmer words for the army who he said appeared “pretty disciplined”, although too pervasive in the north.

 
 
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