The Sri Lankan government continued its assault on civil society and failed to take meaningful steps towards accountability for war crimes during the country’s armed conflict that ended in 2009, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2013.
In its 665-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
There was no fundamental progress on key human rights issues in Sri Lanka over the past year, Human Rights Watch said.
“The Sri Lankan government needs to address the many problems that undermine basic rights for people in the war-torn North and East,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Justice and accountability for abuses, an end to torture in detention, and ending constraints on basic liberties continue to prove elusive for the Tamil population.”
The UN Human Rights Council, responding to the government’s prolonged failure to investigate alleged laws of war violations, adopted a resolution in March 2012 calling on Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to ensure justice and accountability.
It requested that the government expeditiously present a comprehensive plan detailing the steps it had taken to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and address accountability.
“UN member states have made it clear through the Human Rights Council resolution in March and the Universal Periodic Review hearings in November that Sri Lanka needs to make fast and meaningful progress on its rights commitments,” Adams said. “The Sri Lankan government should recognize that its past stalling tactics have run their course and that it will need to take real action.”
Statements by government officials and government-controlled media named and threatened human rights defenders who called for accountability for wartime abuses or criticized other government policies.
“There is ample evidence that Sri Lanka’s current government acts to serve its own interests at great cost to democratic institutions and equal treatment of all communities,” said Adams.
Local activists expressed deep concern about the security of their staff and the people they assist. The government shut down at least five news websites critical of the government in 2012 and put in place onerous registration requirements and fees for all web-based media services. The former editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper reported being threatened by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa for publishing an article critical of him.
“When a government fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the need for international action increases,” Adams said. “The international community in 2012 focused renewed attention on Sri Lanka, and given the lack of progress on accountability and the shrinking political space, should continue to do so.” (Colombo Gazette)