Background information on continuous human rights violations in Sri Lanka

31/10/2013
Press release

Four years after the end of the civil war, human rights violations remain prevalent in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the authorities have demonstrated little genuine progress in implementing the recommendations of their own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

Some of the only positive developments include the recent separation of the police from the Ministry of Defence under a new Ministry of Law and Order, and the organisation – in spite of a “compromised electoral environment” (as put by the Commonwealth’s Election Observation team) - of provincial council elections on 21 September in the Northern Province.

Meanwhile, the following human rights violations continue:

  • No credible investigations into (or prosecutions related to) allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations throughout the conflict, have been undertaken. In this regard, the Government of Sri Lanka should make public the full reports and recommendations of all domestic commissions of inquiry including the Ministry of Defense’s investigations into the killing of civilians in 2009; the 2006 Commission of Inquiry on 16 “serious violations of human rights,” which includes the killing of five students in Trincomalee and seventeen employees of Action Contre la Faim (ACF) and, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in February 2013, “accept international assistance to resolve outstanding cases”.
  • Thousands of outstanding enforced disappearance cases are yet to be investigated or resolved, denying the victims’ families right to truth, justice and reparation. As of today, the mandate and actions of the newly-established Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances remain unsatisfactory.
  • Witnesses receive insufficient protection, especially in the absence of any effective Witness Protection Bill.
  • Many individuals remain detained under emergency or anti-terrorism laws, and should be released unless they are charged with recognizable criminal offenses. In the present context, the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed, and the system of administrative detention abolished
  • Vulnerability of women and girls, particularly in female headed households, to sexual harassment and abuse, remains widespread. This particularly concerns northern Sri Lanka.
  • Human rights defenders and journalists are harassed and intimidated in many ways, including those who met with Navi Pillay during her visit to Sri Lanka in late August 2013. Public protest and, in general, freedom of assembly, are more and more curtailed, sometimes through the use of the army. More than 30 journalists have been killed since 2005.
  • The military presence in the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka remains considerable, leading to human rights violations, including land grabbing; land conflicts may become even more subject to the arbitrary following a ruling by the Supreme Court stipulating that land is now a prerogative of the central government and not of provincial councils, overturning 25 years of legal ruling.
  • Interference of the executive over the judiciary is growing, as highlighted by the impeachment of the previous chief justice, Shirani Bandarnaike, in January 2013, which can only be deemed as unconstitutional and in direct violation of the rule of law.
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