US rights report adds to Colombo's woes over war-crime accusations

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 March 2010, 00:08 GMT]
The "2009 Human Rights Report" on Sri Lanka released by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, criticized the Sri Lanka Government, paramilitaries working with the Government, and the Liberation Tigers for gross human rights violations. On torture, the report said, "reports of secret government facilities where suspected LTTE sympathizers were taken, tortured, and often killed." The report adds fuel to the recent accusations by high-level officials of the United Nations that Sri Lanka is balking on investigating allegations of war-crimes, and calling for an international investigations.

Noting that "[o]utside of the conflict zone, the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils," the report said, "observers linked the government closely to paramilitary groups believed responsible for serious human rights violations."

On Government of Sri Lanka's violations, the report said: "Credible reports cited unlawful killings by paramilitaries and others believed to be working with the awareness and assistance of the government, assassinations by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings, and disappearances. The government was credibly accused of arbitrary arrests and detentions, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trial, government corruption and lack of transparency, infringement of freedom of movement, harassment of journalists and lawyers critical of the government, and discrimination against minorities.

"Human rights observers alleged that progovernment paramilitary groups and security forces participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity. During the year there were no indications or public reports that civilian or military courts convicted any military, police, or paramilitary members for human rights abuses. In some cases the military turned over military members to the civilian judicial system for processing.

"The executive failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, which is required under the constitution, thus obstructing the appointment of independent representatives to important institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, Police Commission, and Judicial Service Commission," the report said.

The report was critical on the Commmission of Inquiries (COI) for exonerating all government security forces in the 2006 killing of 17 local staff of the French NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF). U.S. faulted the COI "for saying the LTTE had killed the workers, contrary to many independent analyses of available evidence that pointed toward involvement in the killings by police, Muslim Home Guard, and Special Task Force members." The report added that the "[s]ecurity forces visited the victims' families and asked them to sign letters blaming ACF for the deaths and calling for a foreign government to provide further compensation."

On torture, the report cited UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Torture, Manfred Nowak, who concluded after a 2007 visit to Sri Lanka that "torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka." The report also said that "former detainees of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) at Boosa Prison in Galle confirmed earlier reports of torture methods used there. These included beatings, often with cricket bats, iron bars, or rubber hoses filled with sand; electric shock; suspending individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, abrading knees across rough cement; burning with metal objects and cigarettes; genital abuse; blows to the ears; asphyxiation with plastic bags containing chili pepper mixed with gasoline; and near‑drowning. Detainees reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment."

On internet freedom, the report said that while the government did not restrict cell phone use or the use of text messaging, there were "restrictions on access to the Internet, including suspicions that the government was behind the blocking of Internet access to several Tamil news Web sites, including the pro-LTTE TamilNet."


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External Links:
USGov: 2009 Human Rights Report: Sri Lanka


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