- In May and June, families in Vaharai, Batticaloa district, who tried to prevent the LTTE from forcibly recruiting their children were beaten with wooden sticks. One woman was knocked unconscious and another was cut on the face.
- In May, four boys from Trincomalee were forcibly re-recruited from their homes in the middle of the night. The mother of one of the boys was beaten and injured during the incident.
There were numerous reports of torture by police, as well as some reports of death in police custody. Some torture victims seeking redress in the courts were reportedly put under pressure to withdraw their cases. Among them was Gerald Perera, a torture victim due to give evidence against seven police officers in the High Court, who was shot on 21 November and subsequently died.
In August the National Police Commission announced that addressing torture by police would be its top priority. It also announced that it would be responsible for the disciplinary control of all police officers, revoking the previous authority of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in disciplinary matters relating to officers below the rank of inspector. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) established a Torture Prevention and Monitoring Unit to investigate allegations and carry out surprise checks on places of detention. However, in September the IGP issued a directive, based on the Attorney General’s advice, stating that the NHRC must notify senior police officials before inspecting police barracks and other unauthorized places of detention.
On 20 November the Office of the President announced that “the death penalty will be effective from today for rape, murder and narcotics dealings”. This signalled the end of a 27-year moratorium on executions. The reactivation of the death penalty was in response to the murder of a High Court judge and a policeman guarding him. Since the last execution in 1976, all death sentences had been automatically commuted by consecutive presidents.
Prevention of Terrorism Act
It was reported that around 40 prisoners remained in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) at the end of the year.
In July, in response to a complaint brought under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that the rights of Nallaratnam Singarasa had been violated and that he should be given an appropriate remedy such as “release or retrial and compensation”. Nallaratnam Singarasa was detained under the PTA in 1993 and sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment in 1995. Nallaratnam Singarasa claimed that while in detention he was tortured and forced to put his thumbprint to a confession written in Sinhalese, a language he did not understand. This confession formed the main basis for his conviction.
In July a private members’ bill, the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, was tabled in Parliament. The bill placed restrictions on the circumstances under which a person can be converted. Following objections that the bill was unconstitutional, in August the Supreme Court ruled that some amendments should be made to it. In November another private members’ bill was tabled for a constitutional amendment to make Buddhism the national religion. By the end of the year neither of these bills had been passed.
Christian groups reported a few attacks by Buddhist villagers on pastors and churches in the south during the year. In October there was rioting between different Muslim sects in the east, resulting in the demolition of a mosque belonging to a minority Muslim sect and reports of families fleeing their homes. Around the same time tension between Muslims and Tamils led to rioting in Mannar and Akkaraipattu.