Lanka urged to end the regime of impunity
In its 139 pages report,
The State of Civil and Political Rights in Sri Lanka, Asian Centre
for Human Rights (ACHR) today highlighted the massive violations
of civil and political rights in Sri Lanka and urged the Sri Lankan
government to implement the recommendations made by the United Nations
Human Rights Committee on 6 November 2003.
The report documents arbitrary
arrest, detention, torture, custodial rape, extrajudicial executions,
disappearances, violations of press freedom and the lack of independence
"Although torture has
been recognised as a criminal offence since 1994, Sri Lankan government
has so far filed indictments against only 43 police and security
personnel and instituted disciplinary actions against only 12 officers
for failing to stop torture. No one has been prosecuted until today.
Impunity has turned the Sri Lankan Police into the country's most
feared and organised criminal gang" - stated Suhas Chakma,
Director of ACHR. Torture is so widespread that victims also include
police personnel themselves, added Chakma.
Disappearances have been
accepted as a part of the war strategies against the LTTE and have
reached genocidal proportion. According to government estimates,
27,200 persons disappeared in 1988-90 alone, while about 700 persons
disappeared in 1996-97 in the north and eastern provinces. But,
Disappearance Investigation Unit of the government of Sri Lanka
has so far filed only 432 cases. Out of 178 cases concluded as of
November 2003, only 12 cases i.e. a mere 6.4% resulted in conviction,
while 130 cases i.e. 73% resulted in acquittal.
Although the Attorney General
released about 300 detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act
(PTA), 1979 as a confident building measure with the LTTE, ACHR's
report expressed concerns that since September 2003, the Attorney
General ordered not to withdraw indictments filed under the PTA.
As the judiciary functions under the caprice of the Defence Minister
and Attorney General under the PTA, thousands of ethnic Tamils continue
to be detained for years without fair trial and access to judiciary.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga's grant of general amnesty of 3,670
prisoners in 2002-2003 did not include any PTA detainee. The government
also prematurely disbanded the Presidential Committee on Unlawful
Arrests and Harassment in 2001.
"The most concrete
demonstration of the Sri Lankan government's commitment to the peace
process with the LTTE would be the immediate examination of all
the PTA cases by an independent judicial commission within a specified
time frame," said Chakma.
The flaws of the Constitution
and weak mandate of other national human rights institutions have
negatively impacted the enjoyment of civil and political rights.
The Sri Lanka's National Human Rights Commission does not only have
restrictive mandate but serious financial crunch has virtually crippled
its functioning. Although, the Commission requested Rs 40 million
for 2003, the government only allocated Rs 1.6 million.
"Article 126 of Constitution
of Sri Lanka makes perversion of delivery of justice against infringement
of fundamental rights as petitions against violations of fundamental
rights can only be filed with the Supreme Court based in Colombo,
within one month time limit and only by the victim or his attorney.
There is no chance to pursue justice for violations of fundamental
rights of the dead and the missing." - stated Chakma.
The biased judiciary is
one of the root causes of the problems in Sri Lanka including the
ongoing political crisis between President Kumaratunga and Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Present Supreme Court Chief Justice
Sarath Nanda Silva, who served as the Attorney - General as well
as the President Chandrika Kumaratunga's counsel in 1996, has repeatedly
acted in favour of the President in cases directly or indirectly
affecting the President. Justice Silva twice became his own judge
by restraining an opposition impeachment motion against him in June
2001 and by hearing a case filed against him by trade unionist,
Michael Anthony Fernando. Justice Silva sentenced Fernando to jail
for one year on 6 February 2003, a sentence universally condemned.
ACHR urged Sri Lankan government
to implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee
of 6 November 2003 by bringing an end to the regime of impunity
through prosecution of the human rights violators and to rectify
the systemic flaws by repealing Article 126 of Constitution, Human
Rights Commission Act of 1996, Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979
and the Convention against Torture Act No. 22 of 1994 and extend
invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judiciary
to visit Sri Lanka..[END]
more information please call Director of Asian Centre for Human
Rights in New Delhi
at +91-11-25503624 or 25620583