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France backs ACF call for international probe into Muttur massacre

French charity Action Contra la Faim (ACF or Action Against Hunger) has began to approach international donors to Sri Lanka to establish an international inquiry into the killing of 17 of its local staffers in Muttur in August 2006.


France has allegedly already come out in support of the initiative. French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner has the non-governmental organisation that France would explore the possibility for such an inquiry, an ACF official said.


Head of ACF communications Lucile Grosjean told The Sunday Leader that coinciding with the launch of a new campaign over the Muttur murders on June 17, the organisation had first made its appeal to France.


"As the event on the 17th was the official launching of the campaign aimed at obtaining an international inquiry, ACF requests the support of France, European Union, Co-chairs of the Tokyo conference at this specific moment. We decided to go step by step asking first for the support of France," she said adding that the French government had reacted positively.


"As requested by ACF, we are going to explore with our international partners the possibility of setting up an international commission of inquiry," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Paris on June 17 according to transcripts made available by the French Foreign Ministry.


It is likely that a series of discussions would be held between representatives of France and other EU countries, after France takes over the European Union Presidency on July 1, reported the Daily Mirror.


France is not going to take the aid agency’s request lightly as the organisation’s ‘Justice for Mutur’ campaign has caught the attention of the French government. Discussions will be held after July 1 and an international inquiry into the Mutur massacre is likely,” the paper quoted French sources as saying.


Grosjean however said that the organisation had only received the French response and was however not aware as to how the other countries would react to the idea of an international inquiry.


Grosjean told the Daily Mirror that while the organization was relieved at the step taken by the French government, it would continue with its international public awareness campaign in  France under the slogan – ‘Justice for Muttur’ – to dramatize and underscore the savagery of the massacre.


Kouchner was an original member of the International Independent Eminent Group of Persons (IIEGP) that was set up to assist the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry. He resigned when he was appointed as the Foreign Minister of the Nicolas Sarkozy administration.


The IIEGP pulled out of Sri Lanka in March, followed by ACF which had maintained a single member presence in the country to handle the matters relating to a commission of inquiry into the Muttur massacre.


However Commission of Inquiry Chairman N. Udulagama told the Daily Mirror that the commission would not extend support to France to conduct an international inquiry as ACF was no longer functioning in Sri Lanka.


Udulagama said that while ACF was entitled to its views and to seek support from the international community, there was nothing much the Sri Lankan government could do to be of any assistance as ACF had withdrawn from the country before the conclusion of the local investigations, the paper reported.


“ACF left the country two months after the CoI began its sittings without assisting the investigations. Now it seeks an international probe. What does it now expect us to do?” Justice Udulagama queried.

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