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Sri Lanka's postwar resettlement stalls

Some 280,000 refugees remain detained, a month after fighting stopped. A national probe into war abuses was shut down this week.

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One month after its decisive victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lanka continues to grapple with the aftereffects of war.

Among the thorniest is the fate of 280,000 displaced Tamil civilians who are living inside barbed wire in vast tent cities, unable to return home. Legal-rights advocates have challenged their detention, which Sri Lanka calls a necessary security measure while an unknown number of rebel suspects are still in the camps. More than 4,000 have reportedly surrendered.

Friction is also emerging between international aid organizations providing services in the camps and military authorities who have tightened conditions on humanitarian access. United Nations officials have been stopped from bringing in cameras and mobile phones. Vehicles of aid organizations were barred after the military said they had been used to smuggle out members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

No clear resettlement plan

Sri Lanka's government has promised to resettle the majority of the refugees by the end of the year. So far, few details have been shared with the UN, which has plenty of relevant experience in this field, says Paul Risley, a regional spokesman for the World Food Program. "The government has not put forth a clear plan for all these returns to take place within six months," he says.

Rajiva Wijesinha, an official in the disaster management ministry, says plans are being drafted and would shown with international donors. "The policy is being put down on paper ... we're planning to do the resettlement quite quickly," he says. [Editor's note: .]

Last week, a research organization in Colombo, the Center for Policy Alternatives, filed a lawsuit against President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other officials for violating the fundamental rights of Tamil citizens. The case alleges they are being detained on account of their ethnicity and place of origin. Mr. Wickrasinha said the Supreme Court delayed a hearing Thursday to allow more time for those named in the suit to respond.

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