Government accused of making limited progress in addressing impunity

The Government made limited progress in addressing impunity for crimes under international law committed during Sri Lanka’s conflict, an international human rights group said today in a new report.

In its annual report on human rights in the region Amnesty International said that Government promises in 2015 to establish a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, had not been realized at the end of the year.

‘Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: A review of 2019’, which includes a detailed analysis of human rights developments in 25 countries and territories, noted that in Sri Lanka the Attorney General’s department filed hurried indictments in several key cases in advance of presidential elections in November, but the cases of many individuals who allegedly bore command responsibility for serious violations were not included.

These cases included the enforced disappearance of journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda, in 2010, and the extrajudicial executions at the Welikada prison, in in 2012 which left 27 inmates dead.

The report also notes that in July, a magistrate in the north eastern town of Trincomalee acquitted 12 members of the police Special Task Force (STF) and a police officer due to “lack of evidence”.

Witnesses in the case had been reluctant to testify due to inadequate witness protection measures and lack of faith in domestic courts. The defendants were accused of executing five ethnic Tamil students in 2006, known as the “Trinco Five” case.

In July, the Attorney General decided to recommence investigations into the executions.

The report also notes that the Government failed to repeal the PTA despite making pledges in the UNHRC resolution to do so and to replace it with legislation in line with international human rights law and standards.

The draft Counter Terrorism Act which was not enacted by the end of the year fell short of adequate human rights guarantees. (Colombo Gazette)