COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A Sri Lankan court has barred activists from holding a civil war commemoration near a monument to ethnic Tamils killed in the fighting, but said Thursday that Tamils could hold memorial events in a nearby church.
Anti-war activists plan to mark Friday's eighth anniversary of the war's end in Mullivaikkal village, where hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped in May 2009 as Tamil Tiger rebels mounted their last stand against government troops.
They had organized a memorial and a religious event but police went to court Wednesday arguing that events should not be allowed near a stone statue of a woman carrying a dead child, saying engravings could include the names of fallen rebels and pose a threat to peace and security.
The Mullaitivu district court however heard arguments by the lawyers of the organizers Thursday and ruled to allow the commemoration at a nearby church, but upheld the ban on events at the memorial.
In the first five years after the war's end, ethnic Tamil civilians were denied the right to publicly remember their dead and those who defied were arrested and harassed by the military and police.
However, the defeat of strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2015 election brought some freedoms. Still, the new government has also insisted that it will not allow dead Tamil Tiger rebels to be memorialized.
According to a United Nations report some 40,000 civilians may have been killed in just the final months of the fighting in a war.
In Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena will lay a wreath at a memorial on Friday in a sober event marking the end of the civil war.