Sri Lanka offers information on war detainees

COLOMBO - Sri Lankan authorities released information for the first time on Sunday about thousands of people held under draconian anti-terror laws despite it being three years since Tamil rebels were crushed.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said an information centre was set up to provide details of detainees, a long-standing demand of rights groups which accuse the government of holding thousands of suspects without trial.

"Information about those who were arrested by the TID (the police's Terrorist Investigation Department) will be given to their immediate family members," Rohana said.

He did not say how many were still being held by the TID.

The US has been pressing Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record and address allegations of war crimes in the final phase of its battle against Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.

In March the UN Human Rights Council moved a resolution against Sri Lanka over its no-holds-barred military offensive that ended nearly four decades of ethnic war by crushing the Tiger leadership.

Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians also perished in the final offensive, but Sri Lanka maintains that not a single civilian was killed by its troops.

The government says some 12,000 Tamil rebels surrendered to security forces as the guerrillas faced annihilation and that most of those who gave themselves up have since been "rehabilitated" and reunited with their families.

But a large number still remain unaccounted for, according to rights groups and a domestic probe which has stopped short of blaming the military for any excesses.

The release of detainee information came ahead of talks between Sri Lanka's External Affairs minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due in Washington next week.

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