Basic rights violated in Sri Lanka: Rights group

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of failing to advance justice and accountability for the victims of the country’s 30-year-long civil conflict.

A leading US based human rights group, in a statement sent to the Sri Lankan media on Monday, said that while Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north and east became more open following the war, the government deepened repression of basic freedoms throughout the country.

“In 2011, accountability remained a dead issue, the media faced increasing censorship, and the long-standing grievances which led to the conflict were not seriously addressed,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in the statement. “Sri Lankans face a lack of justice, weak rule of law, land grabbing, and a censored media from a government that is increasingly authoritarian.”

Human Rights Watch released a 676-page report globally on Monday which looks at progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world.

On Sri Lanka, the report said that the government’s failure to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable remained a key issue throughout the year. No one was prosecuted for atrocities committed during the conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The report said that the government ignored the findings of a Panel of Experts report, commissioned by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which found rampant abuses by both government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels, and called for an independent international mechanism to investigate laws-of-war violations.

The government insisted instead that a local commission, the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) would be the mechanism to address wartime abuses.

“The abuses by government forces detailed in the UN Panel of Experts report are strangely missing in the LLRC’s findings,” Adams said in the statement to the media regarding Sri Lanka. “Even the LLRC’s useful recommendations seem destined to join those of other Sri Lankan commissions that got filed away and ignored.”

The report by Human Rights Watch said that the heavy military presence in the north and east of the country was a continuing source of distrust among the largely Tamil population.

“The government has barely made an effort to address the grievances of the Tamil population,” Adams said. “Instead of the government facilitating greater dialogue, Tamil political representatives are subject to threats and harassment.”

Allegations of mistreatment and torture in custody have not been investigated, Human Rights Watch added.

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