Colombo irked by US Rights report

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 March 2008, 14:53 GMT]
The 2007 Country Report of Human Rights Practices in Sri Lanka released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. State Department has created shockwaves within the Rajapakse Government according to Media reports in Colombo Friday. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had called on the US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert O Blake, to register “Sri Lanka’s serious concerns” on the report, Colombo media reported.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. , Bruce Fein, the associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, and a lawyer for a group of Tamil activists, questioned “why the U.S. Government has not taken any action especially when the perpetrators are US citizens or residents clearly established under command and responsibility standards,” and said “over 3,200 deaths have occurred in 2007 although it is privately known to be much higher with 5 members of Parliament who are Tamils being assassinated.”

The report was unusually harsh on the Sri Lanka Government listing in detail rights abuses by Security Forces and collaborating paramilitaries. On “Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life, the report said “[t]here were numerous, credible reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings,” and said 44 aid workers were killed in Sri Lanka.

“The August 2006 execution style killing of 17 members of a French NGO Action Contre La Faim fell under the CoI's mandate. The SLMM asserted that state security forces were responsible for the killings, a charge the government denied. By year's end no arrests were made. The CoI continued its investigation but made little progress,” the report said.

On the impunity enjoyed by the security forces, the report said, “[t]he government made no progress in the investigations of the 2005 assassinations of former TNA MP A.C. Nehru or MP Joseph Pararajasingham while he was attending midnight mass in a Batticaloa HSZ. The CoI was charged with investigating Pararajasingham's assassination. There was also no progress made in the investigation of the killing of E. Kausalyn, political head of the Batticaloa Ampara division of the LTTE.”

“The government used paramilitary groups to assist its military forces in fighting the LTTE and intimidate its critics in the media and in parliament. The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP or Karuna group), led by breakaway LTTE eastern commanders Karuna Amman and Pillaiyan, operated mostly in the east. The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), led by government Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, operated in Jaffna. In September the government allegedly provided Karuna Amman with false identity documents to facilitate his entry into the United Kingdom, where he was arrested for illegal immigration on November 2,” the report said.

On the disappearances, the report said: “[T]he Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC), reportedly acting on instructions from senior government officials, did not provide statistics on the number of disappearances in the current year, but it reported 345 instances countrywide of politically motivated disappearances in 2006 by the state security forces, progovernment paramilitary groups, or the LTTE. According to NGOs, the number of disappearances sharply increased during the year. For example, the Foundation for Coexistence reported 880 disappearances.

“Witnesses and potential victims identified the perpetrators of abductions as Tamil-speaking armed men using white vans without license plates. The government generally failed to investigate allegations of abductions by armed men in white vans on the grounds that white vans are too common for these incidents to be effectively investigated.”

On torture and other degrading treatment the report said: “[I]n the conflict-affected north and east, military intelligence and other security personnel, sometimes working with armed paramilitaries, carried out documented and undocumented detentions of civilians suspected of LTTE connections. The detentions were followed by severe interrogations, frequently including torture. When the interrogations failed to produce evidence, detainees were often released with a warning not to reveal information about their arrests and threatened with re-arrest or with death if they divulged information about their detention. Some were killed by masked gunmen on motorcycles immediately after leaving these military facilities on foot. As UNSR Nowak reported, the military denied holding detainees at its facilities and did not grant him access to investigate claims of torture by military forces.”


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External Links:
US: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2007: Sri Lanka


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