Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2010

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People suspected of committing human rights violations continued to hold responsible positions in government. Minister of National Integration Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (alias Karuna) and Chief Minister of the Eastern Province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan (alias Pillayan) were reportedly responsible for abducting teenagers to serve as child soldiers, and holding as hostage, torturing and unlawfully killing civilians and people suspected of links to the LTTE. Both men were formerly LTTE members. There was no official investigation into any allegations of abuse.

  • In September, Joseph Douglas Peiris and four other police officers were released on bail by the Supreme Court after they challenged convictions related to enforced disappearances carried out in July 1989. In August, a Gampaha court had sentenced the men to five years' hard labour for abducting two brothers (one of whom was killed) with intent to murder, and keeping the youths in illegal custody. The crimes were committed in the context of government counter-insurgency operations. The case took 20 years to prosecute.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, attacks and threats.

  • Sinnavan Stephen Sunthararaj of the Centre for Human Rights and Development was abducted by uniformed men in May, just hours after his release from two months in police detention without charge. He remained missing at year's end.
  • Five doctors who provided eyewitness accounts of civilian casualties in the final phase of the armed conflict were detained by the Sri Lankan army in May. In July, they were apparently compelled to publicly recant their earlier reports of Sri Lankan military attacks on civilians. Four of the five were released in August and permitted to resume work. The fifth, Dr Sivapalan, was released in late December.
  • In August, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Director of the Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, received an anonymous letter posted to his home address, threatening to kill him if the EU withdrew Sri Lanka's Generalized System of Preference Plus tariff concession, which was in jeopardy because of Sri Lanka's failure to live up to its human rights commitments. In September he was detained and questioned by police at Bandaranaike International airport.


Journalists were killed, physically assaulted, abducted, intimidated and harassed by both government personnel and members of armed groups. Little effort was made to investigate attacks or bring perpetrators to justice.

  • Lasantha Wickrematunge, outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government and editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot and killed on his way to work on 8 January.
  • On 1 June, unidentified assailants abducted and assaulted Poddala Jayantha, General Secretary of the Working Journalists Association in Sri Lanka. His attackers called him a traitor, shaved his beard, beat him with iron bars, broke his leg and crushed his fingers, saying it was to prevent him from writing.
  • On 31 August, journalist and prisoner of conscience Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam was sentenced to 20 years' hard labour on terrorism charges for articles he wrote in 2006 criticizing the military's treatment of civilians in eastern Sri Lanka. His colleagues V. Jasiharan and V. Vallarmathy were released in October after 19 months in detention. The charges were dropped when they agreed not to pursue a fundamental rights complaint against the authorities.

Amnesty International visit/reports

The authorities denied Amnesty International permission to visit the country.