Report finds impunity persisted in Sri Lanka for war crimes

A world report released by Amnesty International has noted that impunity persisted in Sri Lanka for alleged crimes under international law committed during the armed conflict.

The Amnesty International Report 2016/17 documents the state of human rights in 159 countries and territories during 2016.

The annual report noted that Sri Lanka continued to pursue commitments to deliver accountability for alleged crimes under international law, although the process was slow.

The report said that many human rights challenges remained, including the authorities’ reliance on the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to arrest and detain suspects; torture and other ill-treatment in police custody, and impunity for enforced disappearance and other violations. Victims of violations during the armed conflict faced challenges in rebuilding lives and livelihoods as coherent relief and reparation plans had yet to be implemented.

“Impunity persisted for alleged crimes under international law committed during the armed conflict. Impunity also remained for many other human rights violations. These included the January 2006 extrajudicial executions of five students in Trincomalee by security personnel and the killing of 17 aid workers with the NGO Action Against Hunger in Muttur in August 2006,” the report said.

The Amnesty International report said that in May, the former Media Minister, testifying in a habeas corpus case into the December 2011 disappearances of political activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan, stated that his claim at the time that the two activists were in government custody and that their whereabouts could not be revealed was based on information from the Defence Ministry. The investigation into the involvement of army intelligence officers in the 2010 disappearance of dissident cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda was ongoing. In August a court in the capital, Colombo, ordered a new autopsy of the remains of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was murdered in 2009.

“Impunity persisted for violence against women and girls, including rape by military personnel and civilians, and also in situations of domestic violence such as marital rape. Women human rights defenders supporting constitutional reforms advocated repeal of Article 16(1), which upheld laws existing prior to the current Constitution, even when they were inconsistent with the Constitution. This included tenets of Muslim personal law that permitted child marriage and failed to recognize marital rape,” the report added.

The report also said that Tamils continued to complain of ethnic profiling, surveillance and harassment by police who suspected them of LTTE links. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that the PTA was disproportionately used against Tamils and was discriminatory in effect.

Christians and Muslims reported incidents of harassment, threats and physical violence by members of the public and supporters of hardline Sinhala Buddhist political groups. Police failed to take action against attackers or in some cases blamed religious minorities for inciting opponents. (Colombo Gazette)



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