Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2011

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  • In March, former parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran accused members of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) in Jaffna of killing 17-year-old Thiruchelvam Kapilthev. Suresh Premachandran said the police ignored statements by friends of the victim that implicated the EPDP, and said they were protecting the killers because of the upcoming parliamentary election.

Enforced disappearances

Enforced disappearances and abductions for ransom carried out by members of the security forces were reported in many parts of the country, particularly in northern and eastern Sri Lanka and in Colombo. Hundreds of LTTE members who reportedly disappeared after they had surrendered to the army in 2009 remained unaccounted for.

  • An eyewitness testifying before the LLRC in August told Commissioners that her family members , including two children, had surrendered to the army in the Vadduvaikkal area in May 2009 and that she had seen those who surrendered being taken away in 16 buses along the Mullaitivu Road. She said she had searched for them at detention centres and prisons but failed to locate them. Two priests who encouraged them to surrender were also missing.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The Sri Lankan government continued to rely on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and emergency regulations that grant the authorities broad powers to arrest and detain suspects and to circumvent normal procedural safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. In April, Amnesty International called on Sri Lanka's new Parliament to lift the State of Emergency, in force almost continuously since 1971, and abolish the PTA and other associated security laws and regulations. In May, the authorities lifted some emergency provisions restricting freedom of expression and association and allowing for household registration, but other laws containing similar provisions remained in effect.

Thousands of people with alleged LTTE links were detained without charge or trial for "rehabilitation" or investigation. About 6,000 of more than 11,000 people arbitrarily detained in 2009 for "rehabilitation" remained in detention camps without access to lawyers, courts or the ICRC; many gained some access to families during the year. There was also evidence of secret detention in the north. Officials said 700 to 800 detainees identified by the state as "hardcore" LTTE members and held separately would be investigated by the authorities for possible prosecution. Hundreds more were held without charge in police lock-ups and southern prisons under the PTA and emergency regulations; some had been detained for years. Most of the detainees were Tamil; some were Sinhalese.

  • In October, a lawyer representing four Sinhalese men accused of supporting the LTTE said his clients had been detained without charge for almost three years. The men were among 25 trade union activists and journalists abducted in February 2007 and later found in the custody of the police's Terrorism Investigation Division (TID); 21 were eventually released by the courts without charge.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Police and army personnel continued to torture or otherwise ill-treat detainees. Victims included detained Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE and individuals arrested for suspected "ordinary" criminal offences. Some people died in custody after being tortured by police.

  • In videotaped testimony made available by Janasansadaya, a Sri Lankan NGO, Samarasinghe Pushpakumara said he was detained on 10 November and tortured by Beruwala police after an officer pretended to hire him as a driver and then arrested him for burglary. Samarasinghe Pushpakumara said he was assaulted, threatened with criminal charges for possession of drugs or bombs, and told he could be killed. He was blindfolded and tied to a bed for two days before police released him without charge, but with a warning to keep silent about his treatment.

Extrajudicial executions

Police killings of criminal suspects in apparent staged "encounters" or "escape" attempts continued to be reported; police descriptions of the cases were often strikingly similar.