US Human Rights report accuses SL Government of unlawful killings

Monday, 22 April 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Washington, DC: Although the overall number of extrajudicial killings appeared to decrease from previous years, killings and assaults on civilians by Government officials continued in 2012, the United States said in a report released Friday.

The 2012 Human Rights Report released by the United State Department of State yesterday alleged that the government, its agents, or its paramilitary allies committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, but said, reliable statistics on such killings were difficult to obtain, because past complainants were killed and some families feared reprisals if they filed complaints.

The US report released yesterday by the Secretary of State John Kerry assesses human rights conditions around the globe in 2012.

According to the report the Sri Lankan Government continued to tighten its grip on power in 2012.

“Significant human rights violations took place during the year and the government made little meaningful effort toward reconciliation with the Tamil minority community,” the report highlighted.

“The President exercised authority under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to maintain control of appointments to previously independent public institutions that oversee the judiciary, police, and human rights protection. Denial of fair public trial remained a problem and during the year the Government took steps to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. At year’s end, the Appellate Court was preparing to hear arguments on the Constitutionality of Parliamentary oversight of the judicial branch,” it said.

Persons allegedly tied to the Government attacked and harassed civil society actors, journalists, and persons viewed as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam sympathisers. Involuntary disappearances continued and the government did not account for thousands who disappeared in prior years. Widespread impunity for a broad range of human rights abuses, particularly involving police torture, attacks on media institutions and the Judiciary, and sexual violence remained a serious problem.

In Sri Lanka, unknown actors suspected of association with pro-Government paramilitary groups committed killings and assaulted civilians, the US report said.

The report, while noting that the number of killings associated with pro-Government paramilitary groups declined from previous years, singled out the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda for allegedly engaged in intimidation, extortion, corruption, and violence against civilians in Jaffna.

According to the report, there were persistent reports of close ties between pro-Government paramilitary groups such as the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and Government security forces.

“Whereas these groups served more of a military function during the war, often working in coordination with security forces, they increasingly took on the characteristics of criminal gangs as they sought to solidify their territory and revenue sources in the postwar environment,” it stated.

There were persistent reports of close, ground-level ties between paramilitary groups and Government security forces, the US report revealed.

The report concluded that the security forces and Government-allied paramilitary groups committed unlawful killings in predominantly Tamil areas.

“Discrimination against the ethnic Tamil minority continued, and a disproportionate number of victims of human rights violations were Tamils,” it noted.

Although the Government prosecuted a very small number of officials implicated in human rights abuses, it is yet to hold anyone accountable for alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law that occurred during the conflict that ended in 2009, the report noted.