Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Sri Lanka 2011

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  • The deaths in custody in September of Suresh Kumar of Matale, Ranmukage Ajith Prasanna of Embilipitiya and Dhammala Arachchige Lakshman of Hanwella were all reported by an NGO, the Asian Human Rights Commission. In each case, police claimed that the victim was taken from the police station to identify a weapons cache, attempted to escape, and was shot.

Impunity

Investigations into human rights violations by the military, police and other official bodies and individuals made no apparent progress; court cases did not proceed. Military and civilian officials rejected allegations that Sri Lankan forces had violated international humanitarian law in the final phase of the armed conflict that ended in May 2009 and made repeated public statements claiming that "zero civilian casualties" had occurred.

On 6 July, Minister Wimal Weerawansa led a demonstration that temporarily closed down the UN's Colombo office in an unsuccessful bid to force Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw his panel of experts.

Hundreds of people seeking news of relatives who disappeared after arrest by the army attempted to testify before the LLRC when it held sessions in the north and east starting in August. Few were able to speak to the Commissioners, and there were reports that witnesses were photographed and threatened. The Commission's interim report made useful recommendations to safeguard the rights of detainees and address other public grievances, but failed to address the need for accountability.

Suspected perpetrators of human rights violations continued to hold responsible positions in government.

In November, the government investigated claims that the LTTE killed captured soldiers as the army advanced towards Kilinochchi, but continued to reject allegations that its own forces killed civilians and captured combatants during the armed conflict.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be arbitrarily arrested, abducted, attacked and threatened.

  • Pattani Razeek, head of the Community Trust Fund, a Sri Lankan NGO, went missing on 11 February when he left Polonnaruwa city to travel to the eastern town of Valaichchenai. His family lodged a complaint with the local police in Puttalam town where he lived, and also reported his enforced disappearance to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, but his whereabouts have not been traced. A suspect with alleged political links accused of making ransom demands remained at large.

Journalists

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

  • Prageeth Eknaligoda, an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government, went missing on 24 January. He had been reporting on the 26 January presidential elections and had completed an analysis that favoured the opposition candidate, Sarath Fonseka. Police said investigations had revealed nothing about his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance, and a habeas corpus petition filed by his family in the Colombo High Court was subjected to repeated delays.
  • In May, Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs announced that the government would pardon J.S. Tissainayagam, the first journalist in Sri Lanka to be convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was released on bail in January following an appeal. He left Sri Lanka in June.