‘Probe sexual violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka’ #Vaw


NEW DELHI, February 22, 2013

J. Balaji, The Hindu

File photo of Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

The Hindu File photo of Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch’s report to be released on Monday

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights organisation, has sought an international investigation into reports of sexual violence, rape, third degree torture against Tamil women and men carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces to get confessions from those suspected to have links with the then Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The HRW, which has prepared a 140-page report, “‘We Will Teach You a Lesson’: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces,” which is to be released on Monday, provides detailed accounts of 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse that occurred from 2006 to 2012 in both official and secret detention centres throughout Sri Lanka.

While widespread rape in custody occurred during the armed conflict (with LTTE) that ended in May 2009, “HRW found that politically motivated sexual violence by the military and police continues to the present.” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams claimed: “The Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody. These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present, putting every Tamil man/woman arrested for suspected LTTE involvement at serious risk.”

Mr. Adams said the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) should direct the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent international investigation. “The government’s response to allegations of sexual violence by its security forces has been dismissive, deeming them ‘fake’ or ‘pro-LTTE propaganda.’ It’s not clear who in the government knew about these horrific crimes. But the government’s failure to take action against these ongoing abuses is further evidence of the need for an international investigation,” he said.

Victims’ accounts

Quoting from the accounts of a 31-year-old Tamil woman who was picked up from her Colombo house by CID personnel in November 2011, the HRW said: “I was taken to the fourth floor of the CID office in Colombo. I was not given any food or water. The next day, the officials, who included a uniformed armed official, photographed me, took my fingerprints, and made me sign on a blank sheet of paper. They told me that they had all my husband’s details and kept asking me to disclose his whereabouts. When I told them my husband was abroad, they continued to accuse him of supporting the LTTE. I was beaten with many objects. I was burned with a cigarette during questioning. I was slapped around and beaten with a sand-filled pipe. Throughout the beatings, they asked me for my husband’s details. I was raped one night. Two men came to my room in civilian clothes. They ripped my clothes and both raped me. They spoke Sinhala so I could not understand anything. It was dark so I couldn’t see their faces clearly.”

Another 23-year-old male youth, caught in August 2012, said: “They removed my blindfold [and] I found myself in a room where four other men were present. I was tied to a chair and questioned about my links to the LTTE and the reason for my recent travel abroad. They stripped me and started beating me. I was beaten with electric wires, burned with cigarettes and suffocated with a petrol-infused polythene bag. Later that night, I was left in a smaller room. I was raped on three consecutive days. The first night, one man came alone and anally raped me. The second and third night, two men came to my room. They anally raped me and also forced me to have oral sex with them. I signed a confession admitting my links with the LTTE after the rapes.”

Yet another youth, who surrendered before the security forces in May 2009, said: “Two officials held my arms back [while] a third official held my penis and inserted a metal rod inside. They inserted small metal balls inside my penis. These had to be surgically removed after I escaped from the country.” A medical report corroborates his account, said HRW.

The rights body alleged that the victims also described being beaten, hung by their arms, partially asphyxiated and burned with cigarettes. None of those who spoke to HRW had access to legal counsel, family members, or doctors while they were detained. Most said that they signed a confession in the hope that the abuse would stop, though the torture, including rape, often continued. The individuals interviewed were not formally released but rather allowed to “escape” after a relative paid the authorities a bribe.

 

Supreme Court refuses to ban training of Sri Lankan defence personnel


 

PTI | Oct 8, 2012, 12.12PM IST

Supreme Court refuses to ban training of Sri Lankan defence personnel
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today refused to restrain the Centre from training Sri Lankan armed forces saying it is a policy matter of the government and it cannot interfere with it.

A bench headed by justice Aftab Alam refused to entertain a petition seeking its direction to Centre not to provide training facilities to Sri Lankan armed forces in the country.

The bench dismissed the petition terming it as “misconceived.”

Petition was filed by one N Raja Raman who had approached the apex court after there were some protests from a section of the public, including politicians, against training of Sri Lankan army in India.

In August, Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa has requested PM Manmohan Singh to instruct the defence ministry to immediately halt the training being given to the two Lankan defence personnel and send them back to Sri Lanka immediately.

Jayalalithaa had in July strongly opposed the training being given to nine Lankan defence personnel after which they were relocated to the Yelahanka air station at Bangalore.

She had insisted that they should not be trained anywhere in India, saying the desire of Tamil people was to see those (Sri Lankan defence forces) charged with war crimes (during the last leg of the ‘Eelam’ war) being punished.

 

The KOODANKULAM EXPOSÉ- and the Right to Know


Solidarity to Koodankulam

This week’s front-page lead story tells us everything we need to know about the premium value of Right to Information in any democracy. Indian advocacy groups making use of new Right to Information laws have unearthed an evaluation report which exposes startling information that has implications not just for South India and Sri Lanka, but almost the entirety of the Indian Ocean — particularly the Bay of Bengal.
For those who have not read the story, the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu is poised to deposit dangerous quantities of nuclear wastes in the Indian Ocean, which is a potential calamity facing our people, and possibly a calamity facing the people of India as well.
The story speaks for itself — and what action the Government of Sri Lanka will take in this regard remains to be seen. This is in short order, a disaster waiting to happen.
Indian environmental scientists themselves are saying so, as could be gathered from our front-page story and the other feature story in perspective on page 5.
How all these dangers were exposed is another issue in its entirety. No Indian could have got close to ferreting out the truth on the calamitous dangers of the nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu had they not had the benefit of Right to Information laws.
So, the Koodankulam example is one in which it could be said without hyperbole that Right to Information legislation possibly meant the difference between life and death.
No doubt the Indian authorities would heavily contest the assertions of the environmental lobbyists, but it clearly is a tall order to contradict the Site Evaluation Report (SER) which states unequivocally that a good part of the Indian Ocean is bound to become a dumping site for nuclear wastes once the T’ Nadu plants are commissioned.
How the entire issue would play out in India, and with reference to Indo-Sri Lankan relations would be interesting, and would be moot, but the success of the Indian lobbyists in making use of Right to Information legislation leaves us Sri Lankans envying our Indian neighbours, trying as we have been to get similar legislation passed in our parliament.
The government stymied the UNP’s efforts to ram through such laws, but this was at that time on condition that the government would come up with its own draft. It was argued as many observers of events at that time would recall that the UNP Bill was in fact redundant as the government had plans for a Right to Information Bill, and was close to making the whole thing a fait accompli.
But no Bill on the Right to Information has materialized, and despite the fact that noises are being made about Private Members’ motions etc., that might gift the people this vital legislation at last — everybody including lobbyists, journalists and private citizens have waited in vain.
There could be larger calamities than the Koodankulam plants that are waiting to happen, particularly at a time when concerns of ‘development’ seem to take precedence over all rational considerations.
Please also read about the flouting of environmental legislation to install an entire village in the Nilagala/Gal Oya forests, elsewhere in this newspaper. How many more such depredations are being kept under a lid, simply because we do not have the right to know?

From 24, to 48

Any time is not the time to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to extend the period a suspect could be detained for prior to being produced before the officers of the law, but certainly this seems to be the worst time in which to do it due to the justifiable or not so justifiable finger-pointing at the state apparatus in various quarters, for impunity and other legally untenable circumstances.
The public is being told that certain procedural issues have prompted the extension of the period of detention of a suspect from 24 to 48 hours. It is supremely ironic that what is in fact an undermining of the fundamental tenets of justice masquerades as something being done in the furtherance of justice itself. That is because those in government advocating the legislation never tire of telling us that the law is being changed to make it easier to deal with the culprits.
But the step being taken is so fundamentally flawed that it is in fact a case of interfering with what is universally considered sacrosanct. There is universally an accepted judicial tenet that suspects shall not be kept in custody beyond what is absolutely necessary to facilitate producing such persons before the officers of the law. A clear perusal of the law as it is applied in jurisdictions as diverse as Bangladesh, India the United Kingdom or Australia, and a majority of others in civilized democracies indicates that there is a consensus that 24 hours is the maximum period a suspect could be held in custody without being taken before a magistrate or an equivalent legal authority.
This has not become a basic expectation from the law, without substantial reason. This is the presumption of innocence at work, and the fundamental premise that no person who has not been pronounced guilty in a court of law could be kept against his will without justifiable reason, in custody. There are also several other ramifications with regard to this law — a great many of which deal with the possibility of police abuse of persons under detention. The reader could find out more elsewhere in these pages, but what can be said unequivocally here is that making 24 hours 48 is a big step in the wrong direction.

Read orginal article here

India’s nuclear radiation threat to Sri Lanka


June 6, 2012, 8:44 pm

by David Soysa

“God is so far away, and US is so near”. So goes a popular Mexican saying which is equally applicable to Sri Lanka’s plight, being so close to India.

Although Sri Lanka survived even India’s (under Indira and Rahul Gandhi) ‘Agni’ Terrorism, we and even our future generations may not be able to survive from a possible nuclear disaster to Kudankulam 2000 MW nuclear reactor in India. The Russian-built reactor is only 150 miles from Jaffna, and less than 600 miles from Hambantota.

Justice C. G. Weeramantry (former Judge of the International Court of Justice) in a letter addressed to the world’s Environmental Ministers (and published by our newspaper after Japan’s Fukushima disaster) under the title “Halt Construction of new reactors” highlights; a) lethal doses of radiation to exposed persons 150 miles away from the damage to a nuclear reactor and the radio active contamination of the environment more than 600 miles away are a dire note of warning; b) radioactive contamination of the environment could result in congenital deformities for a thousand generations to come; c) no power on earth can insure against, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, insurrections, negligent management and other disasters; d) several nuclear accidents have already occurred even in developed countries like the US, Russia and Japan. Even the resources of those countries were strained on damage control. Smaller states (like Sri Lanka) could be completely crippled and e) besides accidental damage reactors, radioactive nuclear waste disposal poses a grave threat to humanity.

These are dire warnings from an internationally respected authority on international law. I could hardly add a word, to wake up Sri Lankans, who are sleeping at noon, while the clock is ticking away in Kudankulam. This is not the first time either. When India announced plans to launch Sethu Samudram project in violation of the international law, even our High Commission in New Delhi took no notice. It took a full page article published in The Island of 13th October 2004 to wake up Sri Lankans. Fortunately, our ablest Foreign Minister Laxman Kadirgamar and Secretary H. M. G. Palihakkara took prompt and effective action to save Sri Lanka from that potential danger to our environment, security and shipping. It was done diplomatically and scientifically.

India, which is seeking a seat in the Security Council as a permanent member, has been notorious for violating and treating UN conventions and decisions with impunity and contempt. To date India has failed to implement the famous UN Security Council Resolution on Kashmir, passed several decades ago. Instead, the Indian army is maintaining a reign of terror against the majority Muslims. It is not surprising therefore that India has built a massive nuclear reactor at Kudankulam close to the sea and only 150 miles from Jaffna, without either informing Sri Lanka of the project or obtaining a no objection clearance from the latter as required by International law.

In an article published in The Island of 05.08.2007, I alerted our authorities with the following. I followed this with another published in The Island of 03.12.2007. But that too did not wake up Sri Lankans. “A two thousand mega watt nuclear power project on the coast of Tamil Nadu is being built, to be completed by 2008, like the Sethu Canal project. Indian citizens are now demanding to be informed of the safety aspects of the nuclear fuel complex at Halaya Kadal and the fast breeder reactor at Kal Pattikam, where 30% of the staff lost their lives due to last Tsunami in December 2004. A nuclear submarine base is planned to be sited at Ramanatha Puram in the Sethu Canal.

Indian security analysts of Tamil Nadu have begun to express their grave fear that a devastating nuclear disaster could occur due to one of the following. First, as it happened to Kashiwasaki Kariwa plant in Japan, an earthquake could damage the nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu coast end so close to Sri Lanka resulting in deadly radioactive leaks affecting both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Besides earthquakes, the area is also prone to tectonic activity, cyclones and tsunamis, according to Indian meteorological department. The department has assigned Palk Bay area as an area for volcanic and cyclonic activity”. (The Sunday Island of 05.08.07).

In conformity with Sri Lanka’s current culture of damage control after the damage (remember the pre-Geneva and post-Geneva debacle) our authorities are now seeking to negotiate with India a Radiological Emergency Preparedness Programme. Thus, we have given our approval for India’s nuclear plant in Kudankulam implicitly. What use are these programmes in the event of an accident? Such programmes could not prevent disaster due to the Fukushima accident. While Japan and Germany are closing down their nuclear reactors, since accidents cannot be prevented, India is planning to build more nuclear plants as stated by Indian Prime Minister after the Fukushima disaster.

Besides UN Conventions on Nuclear Safety, International Law requires ‘every State to ensure that activities under its jurisdiction are conducted so as not to cause any damage by pollution to other states and their environment.’ Article 146 of United Nations Convention on “Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)” also deals with the need to protect human beings and the environment. India has violated these UN Conventions.

While Sri Lankans have been sleeping, in India long before Fukushima disaster, Peoples’ Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) organized some 9,000 people to perform satyagraha and several hundreds are on an indefinite fast against Kudankulam plant. AMANES indictment adds “as a result of our rulers’ nuclear madness, our land, water, air, sea, marine life and food security will become poisoned”. Shouldn’t we enlighten our fishermen in the North and the East on this danger? Minister of Fisheries may not be concerned.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalaam, missile scientist and India’s former President visited Sri Lanka recently. It is a pity that our media (or the authorities) could not ask Kalaam, how he plans to prevent an earthquake, tsunami, cyclone (or even an enemy attack on the prime target) from damaging the Kudankulam plant? Judge Weeramantry in his open letter referred to earlier adds: “Indeed, we are committing the gravest possible crime against future generations and are doing so with a full consciousness of the effect of our actions”. What a judgment on the crime of indifference, by those sleeping at noon!

There appears to be some Sri Lankans in authority who are too nervous to raise this issue with India, after India let this country down in Geneva on 22nd March 2012. This is a reflection of ignorance of how other friendly countries settled such issues very amicably. Ireland, US, UK, New Zealand, Japan are well known examples. Space restrictions prevent me from going into details which find themselves in an article I wrote to the People’s Bank Economic Review – August – December 2005. As trustees of the environment, should we betray the unborn future generations just to please India?

Soviet Union leader Kruschev said after a nuclear disaster “the living will envy the dead”.

At Home with Violence: Ethnic LIfe in Colombo by Sharika Thiranagama


 

Colombo, where every anti-Tamil riot in Sri Lanka has begun, is, at the same time, a city of many Tamil-speaking (and other) minorities. This paper takes Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka and the urban heart of Sri Lanka to argue that Colombo has had to perform its Sinhala nationalist credentials constantly because it is “a city which is not one” (Tagg 1996). The paper examines the ways in which people make themselves at home in an ethnically divided city that has never fully been intelligible to its dwellers as one city. Here violence is taken as critical to Tamil phenemenologies of the city. Riots, bombs, and the checkpoints that crisscrossed Colombo made violence a constant feared spectacle of the urban, images of the possible bound by past violence. Yet Tamil spaces of relative safety also presented themselves, due to fear of the separatist LTTE and exploitation by other Tamils, as spaces of un-safety. This paper will takes these everyday practices of inhabiting Colombo as a minority to reflect further on the major dilemmas and political conflicts now facing Sri Lanka in its post-war future.

Speaker Bio: Sharika Thiranagama’s research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicisation, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial in the midst of political repression and militarization.

JOINT STATEMENT of Srilankan Human Rights Defenders


සිංහල: ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජාතික කොඩිය தமிழ்: இலங்கைய...

සිංහල: ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජාතික කොඩිය தமிழ்: இலங்கையின் தேசியக்கொடி English: Flag of Sri Lanka Deutsch: Flagge Sri Lankas Esperanto: Flago de Sri-Lanko Italiano: Bandiera dello Sri Lanka Polski: Flaga Sri Lanki Română: Steagul Sri Lanki Русский: Флаг Шри-Ланки संस्कृत: श्रीलङ्का ध्वज Volapük: Stän Sri-Lankäna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Friends,

 

Greetings from HRDA!

 

We would like to share with you the Joint Statement of three Sri Lankan human rights defenders Messrs. Sunila Abeysekara, Nimalka Fernando and Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who have come most under attack by the state media in Sri Lanka in the past week, because of their active involvement with the on-going session of the UN Human rights Council in Geneva.

Kindly see the attachment herewith.

 

Thanks & Regards,

Pamelin

Secretariat – HRDA-India

 

JOINT STATEMENT – Srilankan Human Rights Defenders – Messers. Sunila , Nimalka and Dr. Saravanamuttu

 

Sri Lanka: A child is summarily executed


Footage of atrocity committed at the end of the government’s war with the Tamil Tigers is revealed

Callum Macrae

It is a chilling piece of footage that represents yet another blow for the beleaguered Sri Lankan government in its attempts to head off a critical resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.

The short clip dates from the final hours of the bloody 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the secessionist rebels of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE.

A 12-year-old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest. His name is Balachandran Prabakaran and he is the son of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He has been executed in cold blood. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground indicating that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot – further evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government forces had a systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters and leading figures, even if they were children.

The footage – dating from 18 May 2009 and which seems to have been shot as a grotesque “trophy video” by Sri Lankan forces – will be broadcast for the first time on Wednesday night in a Channel 4 film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished – a sequel to the controversial investigation broadcast last year which accused both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year, a special panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, suggested that as many as 40,000 civilians died in the last few weeks of the war – the vast majority as a result of government shelling, much of which was targeted on so called “No Fire Zones” set up by the government itself. But as international concern grew over the emerging evidence of appalling crimes against civilians, the Sri Lankan government, headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his powerful brother, the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, launched a counter-offensive. At its heart was a special inquiry appointed by the President, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

This, they insisted, would answer the international criticisms. When the LLRC finally reported last December, it did make important concessions – not least an admission that considerable numbers of civilians had died (a fact denied by the government until then). But it specifically denied that civilians had been targeted and rejected allegations of war crimes by the government. It thus failed entirely to deal with the evidence of blame pointing to the political and military leadership.

But still the criticisms have grown – and are likely to increase, following the new revelations in the Channel 4 film. In one incident, legally significant because it is well documented, two international UN workers leading the last UN overland food convoy became trapped near a temporary hospital in a village primary school in Uddiyakattu, in the first of the government’s No Fire Zones.

With the help of other civilians they began to dig bunkers to provide some protection from incoming shellfire. As was standard practice, one of the UN workers, an Australian called Peter Mackay, took precise GPS co-ordinates of the site, and these were supplied to the government. But if that had any effect, it was certainly not the desired one. Over the next couple of days the camp was subjected to a massive, sustained barrage of incoming shellfire, much of it falling directly on or near to the UN bunker. Dozens were killed – and many more horrifically injured. It was all photographed by the UN workers.

In a sense, it was just one relatively small incident in the ongoing carnage of the war, but it is potentially significant because it provides specific evidence linking the Sri Lankan government’s chain of command to knowledge of targeted attacks on civilians – attacks that appear to constitute war crimes.

As the barrage continued, the UN workers took turns to stand clear of the bunker where they could get line of sight to make frantic sat-phone calls to the Australian High Commi-ssion and other UN officials in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, pleading with them to get the government forces to stop the shelling. They were told these requests were passed on directly to both the then Sri Lankan army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, and the Defence Minister.

Shortly after these phone calls, the shelling shifted slightly away from the UN bunkers. But it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. In a sworn statement about the incident, Mr Mackay describes how the shelling was re-targeted: “Now the closest shells landed 100 metres from us, indicating that they could control the fire when they wanted to.”

That is likely to be significant in any future legal proceedings over command responsibility for war crimes because it amounts to specific evidence suggesting the Defence Minister and army chief had now at least a direct knowledge of the shelling of the No Fire Zone, and that while shelling was then ordered away from the actual UN bunkers, it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. It also represents evidence that the attacks killing civilians were accurately targeted.

Other new evidence – some of it emerging from a massive trawl of confidential diplomatic cables sent between the US embassy in Colombo and the US State Department in Washington – reveals just how calculated was another of the most awful features of this war: the deliberate denial of adequate humanitarian supplies of food and medicine to civilians trapped in those grotesquely misnamed No Fire Zones.

To justify this policy, the government systematically underestimated the number of civilians trapped in the zones. At the end of April 2009, for example,

Read more here

 

Mr. Minister, my name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist.


5 Feb, 2012,  Sunanda Deshapriya      

Tamil rebels in a pickup truck in Killinochchi...

Image via Wikipedia

An Open Letter to Srilankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella

Mr. Minister, I don’t know whether you have seen the film called ‘my name is Khan. In it, the main character played by popular actor Shah Rukh Khan Repeats the lines ‘My name is Khan. I am not a terrorist’ at different points in the film, in order to affirm his innocence. I too am about to tell you a similar story. ‘My name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist’. This is my theme.

The story of ‘My name is Khan’ centres around the harassment a Muslim man with the name of Khan has to endure following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, USA. These attacks on the Twin Towers generated both fear and anger in the minds of the American people. Some extremist groups tried to unleash the feelings of anger against ordinary Muslim people living in the US. The film’s narrative is set against this background.

You are trying to do the same thing today. You are trying to use the fear and anger generated in the minds of the Sinhala people because of the brutality of the LTTE against those of us who have been advocating respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, including respect for the rights of the Tamil people of our country. When I say ‘you’ I do not only mean you as an individual, Mr. Minister. I include the entire gamut of people who do your bidding, including those media persons who sing your praises with no shame.

Do you know what baseless and venomous lies the media under your control has spread about me in the past few weeks? Have either you or your acolytes ever tried to behave in accordance with universally accepted media ethics and asked me for my comments on your revelations? Isn’t your talk about media ethics therefore to be understood as mere political hogwash?

In the film, Sameer, the young son of Khan and his wife Mandira is brutally killed by a gang of boys of his own age. This act of savagery became possible only because the feelings of anger and hatred that I described earlier had been let loose in their community. There can be nobody who watches this film whose heart and mind are not captivated by the tragedy of the child’s murder and the subsequent events. In the past weeks I too have read newspaper reports about your children. How disturbed you would have been after reading such stories? Can you imagine how many deaths my family, my children, have gone through as a result of the vicious campaign being carried out against me by you and the media that serves your will?

I fervently hope that one day you will be able to think about others as you think about yourself; this is the preaching of the Lord Buddha.

You talk over and over again about media ethics. You order news websites to be shut down because they are acting without respect for these ethics. You warn us that you will bring about a Code of Ethics for the Media that will be very special to Sri Lanka.

You are levelling charges against a group of journalists, accusing them of receiving money from the LTTE and carrying out a traitor’s agenda. You say that these media persons and journalists are now living abroad. You say they cannot be prosecuted because the Sri Lankan law does not permit it.

Mr. Minister, while your media people broadcast your words on this subject, they project images of me at various media freedom demonstrations on the screen behind them. With respect to which Code of Ethics are you displaying my photograph to illustrate baseless allegations? You say that it is because you cannot prosecute these persons who have obtained money from the LTTE under existing Sri Lankan law that you are not revealing their names. But your media institutions carry my photograph as an illustration to this statement. What is the intention behind this? Is it NOT to implicate me in your statement? Why is it that your acolytes have permission to do what you don’t dare to do? It must be that you think you do not need to be bound by any ethical standards because you are in power.

You advise the media about the use of language. Yet the media under your control continue to use the vilest forms of hate speech against me, shamelessly and without any proof to back up whatever they are saying. You reward these acolytes of yours with awards of media excellence.

Is it your theory and your practice that only your opponents should be held responsible for respecting media ethics? Is this how you devalue your own use of the media?

Wasn’t it your media that repeatedly broadcast the canard that at the session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year, the Maldivian President said that ‘Sunanda Deshapriya is a traitor to the nation’ even after it had been proved to be false and inaccurate? Where were the media ethics that you preach, then? The first ethical consideration of any journalist or media person is that of respect for the truth. Doesn’t the media under your control break this principle every day? Is the proverb ‘Practise what you preach’ not applicable to Ministers of this government?

Since a while ago I have publicly challenged your government to prove that I have received even one cent from the LTTE. The truth of the matter is that neither you nor your government nor anyone else holds on shred of evidence to prove this. If your government is capable of indicting members of the military and the Police for having accepted money from the LTTE, why should we believe that you are not able to do the same in the case of journalists who have received money from the LTTE? I accuse you of trying to unleash the same forces of extremism that Khan and Mandira faced on the murder of their son Sameer against me and all others working for the defence of human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka today.

It is no secret that I hold an extremely critical view of the Rajapakse regime. As Media Minister, you are obliged to defend my right to hold those views. Instead, you are engaged in taking away that space from us and terrorizing us. Please remember that the right to hold dissenting views is one of ethical bases of media freedom.

On ITN, in the ‘Athulanthaya’ (Interior) programme, you said something ridiculous: That because you cannot take these charges before the law, lacking evidence, you are instead placing them before the people. What does this mean? Why must you take information that has no basis and therefore would not stand scrutiny in a court of law into the public arena? Doesn’t this show us that you are trying to build a hate campaign against me in the minds of the people?

In June 2009, award-winning journalist and Secretary of the Working Journalists’ Association, Poddala Jayantha, was abducted and brutally assaulted because of a similar hate campaign. You who are levelling the most absurd of charges against media persons fighting for media freedom today, what have you done to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Jayantha to justice, almost three years after the attack? Tell us if there is even one example where you and your government have brought any of those responsible for killing, beating and harassing journalists and media persons to justice.

As Media Minister, you are raising against unfounded allegations against us. But the allegations we raise against you as media freedom fighters are completely factual.

When cartoonist and media activist Prageeth Eknaligoda was abducted three years ago, it is you who confidently told us that he would return in two weeks time.

Sri Lanka: No Progress on Justice | Human Rights Watch


A member of the Free Media Association shouts slogans in front of an image of missing cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda during a protest in Colombo June 8, 2011. The protest was held to mark 500 days since the disappearance of Eknaligoda, a pro-opposition journalist who worked for Lanka-e-News, a private-owned independent website that was critical of the government. The placard reads “500 days since Prageeth’s disappearance.” © 2011 Reuters

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. Sri Lankans face a lack of justice, weak rule of law, land grabbing, and a censored media from a government that is increasingly authoritarian.
Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government in the past year failed to advance justice and accountability for the victims of the country’s 26-year-long civil conflict, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012. While Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north and east became more open, the government deepened repression of basic freedoms throughout the country.

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa continued to stall on accountability for abuses by the security forces, threatened media and civil society groups, and largely ignored complaints of insecurity and land grabbing in the north and east, Human Rights Watch said. The long-awaited report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), published in December, largely absolved the military for its conduct in the bloody final months of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ended in May 2009.

“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,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Sri Lankans face a lack of justice, weak rule of law, land grabbing, and a censored media from a government that is increasingly authoritarian.”

In its 676-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the birth of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report.

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 LTTE. 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 the LTTE, and called for an independent international mechanism to investigate laws-of-war violations. The government insisted instead that its LLRC would be the mechanism to address wartime abuses, though the mandate, composition and procedures of the commission were deeply flawed. The LLRC effectively exonerated government forces for laws-of-war violations, rehashed long-standing recommendations, and took no concrete steps to advance accountability.

The commission’s findings stand in stark contrast to those of the UN Panel of Experts, the UN special envoy on extrajudicial executions, and nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch. Although the LLRC found that government shelling resulted in civilian casualties, an allegation that the government had strenuously denied, it did not even consider the repeated attacks on civilian areas and hospitals as possible indiscriminate attacks prohibited by the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.

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

Free expression in Sri Lanka was under assault in 2011. The editor of a Jaffna-based newspaper was beaten with iron bars by a group of unidentified youths in late July. Also in July, a team of Radio Netherlands journalists were harassed by police and later robbed and attacked at gunpoint by men in a white van, a notorious symbol of terror in Sri Lanka. The chairman of the Sunday Leader, whose brother Lasantha Wickrematunge had been gunned down in 2009, received a phone call from President Rajapaksa who threatened to attack him personally in response to articles in the Sunday Leader about high-level corruption. In December, two human rights activists, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan, disappeared, apparently abducted while en route to a planned protest rally in Jaffna. Weeraraj’s father stated that his son had received anonymous phone calls prior to the protest telling him that he would be eliminated if he continued his political involvement.

In November, the government-owned Daily News announced that the government would issue guidelines and a code of conduct for the country’s media. The Media Ministry called on all news websites to register. At least five websites critical of the government were subsequently blocked inside the country.

“A free media is an essential building block of a democratic state,” Adams said. “The Rajapaksa administration is putting this in jeopardy by reacting to criticism with heavy-handed measures.”

The government says that there has been meaningful progress on reconciliation, but there is little evidence to support that contention, Human Rights Watch said. Talks between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on distribution of powers remained stalled through most of 2011. While campaigning ahead of elections in Jaffna in June, members and supporters of the TNA were attacked by army personnel wielding rods, batons and sticks.

There were some improvements for the Tamil population in the north and east in 2011. Freedom of movement to the north has allowed for greater access by humanitarian, local human rights and media groups, as well as by families. However, the government took inadequate steps in 2011 to normalize living conditions. Security in the region remained poor, with alarming incidents reported of gender-based violence and enforced prostitution. The unsettling attacks mid-year by “grease devils” – unidentified male assailants – exposed the vacuum in the security forces’ ability to respond adequately to civilians’ needs for protection. The heavy military presence in the north and east was a continuing source of distrust among the largely Tamil population.

The issue of land, one of the central problems undergirding the decades-long conflict, remains unresolved. Although the cabinet in April passed a circular intended to address the issue of land ownership and competing claims, particularly for those who fled during the war, little was done to implement its provisions.

Further, the government failed to appoint a National Land Commission, as required under the 13th amendment to the constitution. Reports of land-grabbing by the military in the north and elsewhere in the country increased through 2011. In some cases, the military provided some compensation, but sporadically and only when initiated by the owners, not the occupiers.

“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.”

Most of the nearly 300,000 displaced persons illegally confined in military-controlled detention centers after the war were able to leave by early 2010, but many have still not been able to return to their previous homes or communities. About 57,000 people live with host families, and another roughly 53,000 remain in the camps, in part because de-mining activities have not yet been completed in their original home areas.

By December, the government had released all but about 1,000 of the nearly 12,000 LTTE “surrenderees,” alleged combatants and supporters that it was detaining without charge or trial, and claimed that those remaining would be released by mid-2012. The government says these former combatants have been rehabilitated and trained to enter civilian life. The government said another 1,000 “hardcore” LTTE members are being held at Camp Boosa. The conditions for all of these detainees are not known.

Allegations of mistreatment and torture in custody have not been investigated.
The Emergency Regulations were allowed to expire on August 31, but the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and other laws and regulations permitting detention without charge for up to 18 months leave an abusive detention regime in place.

Local government elections held between March and October further consolidated the hold of Rajapaksa’s United Freedom People’s Alliance party. It won control over 270 of the 322 local authorites contested. As in previous years, the president relied on close family members to strengthen his hold on government. Various Rajapaksa brothers remain as cabinet ministers with important portfolios. Opposition parties were effectively sidelined.

Sarath Fonseka, the former army commander who challenged Rajapaksa during the 2010 presidential election, was sentenced to an additional three years in prison after his current sentence expires in January 2012.

“As the Rajapaksa government has strengthened its grip politically, basic rights protections in the country have deteriorated,” Adams said.

Download-World Report- Srilanka 2012

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