Sri Lankan general charged

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: BBC
| Date: 20000721

By: Alastair Lawson in Colombo

The Sri Lankan Government has defended a decision to bring charges against a retired army general accused of torturing and murdering left-wing rebels.

The general, Ananda Weerasekara, is accused of presiding over a spate of disappearances against members of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People's Liberation Front).

The uprising by the JVP - a group of left-wing rebels who launched a Marxist insurrection in the south of the country - culminated in the late 1980s and was one of the bloodiest episodes in recent Sri Lankan history.

Thousands of people on the government and JVP sides were killed in extra-judicial killings.

Most JVP leaders were killed by the security forces after the uprising was suppressed by the Sri Lankan army.

Since the end of the rebellion, few army officers or JVP activists have been successfully prosecuted.

But now the government says it has decided to instigate charges against Major-General Weerasekara.

He has been remanded in custody until the end of this month and is reported to be in poor health.

'Torture camp'

The general, and two army sergeants, are accused of playing a key role in what the government says was the running of a detention camp in which JVP members were tortured and killed.

It is the second time the general has been questioned about his role during the uprising.

In the mid-1990s, he appeared before a government commission on disappearances, but was absolved of any blame.

The general's supporters in the right-wing Sinhala Urumaya party say that the reasons behind the decision to charge him are political.

They say there is no evidence against him and that the government wants to discredit him because of the threat posed by the Sri Lankan right-wing to the ruling People's Alliance Party in elections that must be held after parliament dissolves in August.

They say that the reason that other right-wing army officers have not appeared in the dock is because they are still needed by the government to fight against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north and east of the country.