updated 6/23/2009 3:12:26 PM ET 2009-06-23T19:12:26

Sri Lanka has detained an ethnic Tamil lawmaker who was one of few witnesses to the bloody end of the island's 25-year civil war last month, over alleged links to the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, his colleague said Tuesday.

Anti-terrorism investigators took Sathasivam Kanagaratnam before a magistrate on Monday to formalize the detention in accordance with the country's emergency law, said Suresh Premachandran, a colleague in the Tamil National Alliance.

The law allows police to detain suspects for up to 18 months without charge.

Kanagaratnam was arrested by the military last month near the site of the final battle between government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels. He was trapped in rebel territory along with hundreds of thousands of civilians for several months as fighting raged.

Officials from the Criminal Investigations Department, which is handling the case, could not be reached for comment.

The lawmaker was among the few key witnesses to the bloody final months of the war, when human rights groups say both sides may have committed war crimes. With no independent observers present in the war zone, Kanagaratnam's account of the events could be important in future inquiries.

Since the war ended, authorities have arrested scores of rebel fighters and civilians whom the government claims to be linked to the rebels, including three Tamil doctors who spoke to reporters about civilian casualties while treating the war wounded.

After crushing the Tamil rebels, the government brushed off calls for an international inquiry into possible wartime abuses saying it was an internal matter.

Rights groups accused the government of firing heavy weapons into civilian areas in the final months. The Tamil Tigers were accused of holding the civilians as human shields and shooting those who tried to flee. Both sides have denied the allegations.

The United Nations has reported that 7,000 civilians were killed this year in the war.

Meanwhile, the European Commission announced $7 million in emergency aid Tuesday for the nearly 300,000 war-displaced civilians.

In announcing the package, Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, called for the European Commission's experts to have "regular and consistent access to the displaced" in order to be able to properly implement the relief work.

Aid groups have said that they are granted only limited access to the military-run displacement camps. The government says certain restrictions are necessary for security reasons.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments