October 27, 2009 / 2:27 PM / 10 years ago

EU presses Sri Lanka over human rights

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The European Union urged Sri Lanka’s government on Tuesday to end impunity over human rights violations and to do more to help people displaced by the 25-year war with the Tamil Tigers.

But the 27-country bloc said it also wanted to work with Sri Lanka to improve the situation and did not say whether it would remove trade concessions after an investigation found the Indian Ocean island in breach of international human rights laws.

"It is essential to put an end to impunity and all human rights violations," EU foreign ministers said in a statement after meeting in Luxembourg.

"The EU remains seriously concerned with continuing reports of abductions, disappearances and extra-judicial killings."

The ministers said they were particularly worried about the plight of displaced people still detained in closed camps, despite the end of the war.

"Indiscriminate detention of IDPs (internally displaced people) in Sri Lanka is a clear violation of international law," they said.

The ministers called for displaced people to be granted freedom of movement and full access to humanitarian relief, and said the camps should be transferred to civilian authority.

"The EU urges the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that conditions in the camps in all respects are in accordance with internationally accepted standards," they said.

Despite the criticism, the ministers said they wanted "a meaningful dialogue" with Sri Lanka to sort out the problems.

"It is in the interests of Sri Lanka itself. Without a genuine policy of reconciliation, it’s going to be very difficult in the years ahead," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told a news conference.

The foreign ministers gave no indication what action member states would take following the EU investigation that found Sri Lanka in breach of international human rights laws. [ID:nLJ731429] Officials said this month that the findings of that report could mean Sri Lanka could lose trade concessions worth more than $100 million for its top exports to Europe. [ID:nCOL522523] (Writing by Timothy Heritage; editing by David Brunnstrom and Janet McBride)

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