Showing posts with label Human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Human rights. Show all posts

Friday, December 11, 2020

Conduct postmortem and reveal the causes of deaths of detainees in Mahara prison

Mahara prison riots

By Anthony Vinoth, Coordinator - Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture 

Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture is highly concerned about the killing of 11 detainees of Mahara prison and injuring 107 detainees, in an incident claimed to be taken place amidst steps to control the chaos in prison on November 29. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish speedy recovery of all the injured detainees and the two prison officials.

We highlight that the security of the prisoners in state custody lie on the government and expect the authorities will provide a credible explanation to the society about the incident.

We want to remind that local and international civil organizations have focused the attention of the government many times to the elongated issue of congestion in prisons of Sri Lanka. We believe that COVID-19 would not make the prisons so vulnerable if the government had taken steps to provide sustainable solutions to minimize prison congestion. Several civil organizations, including the Committee to Protect the Rights of the Prisoners informed the authorities several times that spread of the epidemic in the prisons might cause panic among detainees. We stress that the cause for the unfortunate situation in prison is the failure of the authorities to take timely action. As a result, chaos has been reported from several prisoners by now.  

Two detainees lost lives in Anuradhapura prison amidst the first corona wave as a result of using live rounds to control the chaos. On November 18, one detainee of Bogambara prison died due to gunshot injuries. We focus the attention to the section 13 (4) of the constitution of Sri Lanka which highlights “No person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court, made in accordance with the procedure established by law.”

The killings that took place in prisons within a brief period degrade  Sri Lanka in the human rights indices while affecting the dignity of the state internationally.

Even before the postmortem, the new Minister of Prison Management Hon. Lohan Ratwatta said in the parliament that no prisoner had died of gunshot injuries in the Mahara incident. This statement by the Hon. Minister was contradicted when the state counsel representing the Attorney General reported to the Magistrate of Welisara on December 8 that Criminal Investigation Department probes had revealed the use of firearms. The Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture protests the Minister’s statement in this context. We further demand the Department of Prisons to immediately hand over the unedited copies of the videos shown on media together with the equipment used to record them to the Magistrate Court of Welisara for further investigations. 

Also, we demand the government not to cremate the dead bodies of these detainees as per the quarantine regulations. We respect the interim order issued by Hon. Magistrate of Wattala on December 4 preventing the cremations. 

Hon. Magistrate of Welisara has directed the government to provide expert opinion regarding the postmortems, and we urge the authorities to take immediate actions in terms of this direction. In the context of the investigations after the exhumation of the bodies of the murdered persons had changed the initial postmortem reports, we emphasize that the government should conduct fair and independent inquests in terms of these nine killings. The cremation of the dead bodies considering the victims of killings as COVID-19 patients may hide evidence of murder, we stress. Therefore, we urge the government to use suitable techniques such as X-ray and conduct investigations without causing injustice to the victims of a crime and the families of the victims. The responsibility of a democratic government is to conduct murder investigations transparently and independently.

Sri Lanka is lagging regarding delivering justice to the victims of similar crimes that occur in the prisons quite often. The case regarding the killing of 27 prisoners in Welikada prison on November 9, 2012, is yet to be examined. However, accelerating the process of justice concerning exceptional circumstances is unalienable responsibility of the government.

Sri Lankan Collective Against Torture extends its fullest corporation unconditionally to its member organization, Committee to Protect the Prisoners’ Rights, in their struggle to seek justice for the victims of this incident and also to increase the security and facilities in the prisons.

(Translated by Creative Content Consultants)

Friday, November 06, 2020

Police pays Rs. 200,000 damage to a tortured man in Anuradhapura

Supreme Court of Sri Lanka recently ordered the Inspector General of Police to pay the damage of Rs. 100,000 to a young man as compensation for violating his human rights by brutally assaulting and breaking an arm after taking him into custody on 25 September 2013. 

Two other police officers, the former Headquarters Inspector of Anuradhapura police station and a Sub Inspector were ordered to Rs. 50,000 each personally to the victim. These two police officers had assaulted the victim, broken bones in his shoulder and threatened to kill him and to arrest his family if he revealed facts about torture.

The bench of three judges of Supreme Court comprised of Buwaneka Aluvihare, Murdu Fernando and S.S. Thurairajah decided that the plaintiff's human rights under section 11 of the constitution have been violated. 

Counsel Thanuka Nandasiri appeared for the plaintiff. 

(Source: Lankadeepa Sinhala newspaper 5-11-2020)

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Prisoner killed in Sri Lanka's Monaragala prison

A prisoner has been killed in Monaragala Prison of Sri Lanka's Uva Province by prison officials. 

The officials have assaulted the prisoner as a retaliation to an attack by the prisoner against an official on duty.

The deceased was identified as Ulupitiya Gamage Nilantha. He is a 42-year old man from Ampara. (Updated)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sri Lanka's Udugama police violate human rights of a man who violated animal rights

When I watched this video, I recalled the past I was taken like this in police and military vehicles hands and legs bound and pushed under the seats in 1989. There was nobody to talk about my rights except ICRC.

 I am lucky that I am alive but many that were taken like this simply disappeared. Some were even tied to vehicles alive and dragged.

Today in Sri Lanka there are so many people to represent the rights of cattle but no other animal. When they see a crocodile, often they harass it like a criminal and kill. They harass the elephants like this throughout their lives and think its pious.

The way this cow was transported to the slaughter house was clear violation of animal right. But the end result is no different even it is transported in a SUV.

My point is can the police harass a man, beat him with bamboo sticks and force him to kiss the arse of the animal even if he has committed an offense?

A mob also joins with the police or perhaps the police join with the mob to harass these men right within the premises of Udugama police station.

These police officers are engaged in clear violation of human rights.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Channel 4 airs Sri Lanka's killing fields; government repeats it is not authentic

"Footage of alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, with its echoes of Srebrenica, means the international community is more likely to act, a top lawyer tells Channel 4 News. But is prosecution possible?" Channel 4 questioned in its website yesterday as the government of Sri Lanka denied the one hour video aired by Channel 4 TV stating it was a a mere ‘collection of visuals previously aired through LTTE websites and a minuscule section of the international media, at the behest of parties with vested interests to undermine the present efforts at reconciliation and development taking place in Sri Lanka.'

Documenting the final weeks of the bloody civil war when an estimated 40,000 people died, the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields reveals shocking new evidence of serious war crimes.
The film includes footage of government soldiers executing bound prisoners; the dead bodies of naked, abused women dumped in a truck; and the bombing of civilian hospitals.
The barbaric images were captured on mobile phones, many apparently by government soldiers filming grim trophy videos.
The faces of a number of the soldiers can be seen while conversations are heard as the killings are discussed.
In one video, a soldier admits he would like to mutilate the corpse of a dead naked woman "if no one was around".
While pressure builds on the international community to answer calls for an investigation, a top international lawyer has told Channel 4 News the use of new technologies has created a sea change in the reporting of serious crimes.
Mobile phone footage, pictures and testimony distributed online has seen information become instantly accessible to a global audience.
"There has never been a greater awareness of these types of crimes than right now, and it is because of the use of social media," Mark Ellis, chief executive of the International Bar Association, told Channel 4 News.
"It is much more difficult for the international community to stay silent when facing this onslaught of evidence shown by the social media process - it increases the likelihood that the international community must act." (Channel 4)

The video shown at UNHRC

The statement of the Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka:

“This document, like the Darusman Report, does no more than put together a sequence of events and images, to justify a conclusion arrived at in advance. The origins of this footage are yet to be established, and no one has so far taken responsibility for its contents. It is a mere collection of visuals previously aired through LTTE websites and a minuscule section of the international media, at the behest of parties with vested interests to undermine the present efforts at reconciliation and development taking place in Sri Lanka. The views expressed in the film are without any guarantee of authenticity.
“This is one of the matters before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which is scheduled to complete its work by mid-November 2011.
“When Minister Burt telephoned the Minister of External Affairs during the afternoon of June 14, 2011, Prof. Peiris emphasized that the Sri Lankan Commission is entitled to the space and time to complete its work. He took the opportunity to brief Minister Burt on the significant progress that has been made in a variety of fields.
These, he pointed out, include the demining of vast tracts of land, the resettlement of displaced persons, the reintegration into society of former combatants including child soldiers after exposure to programmes of training, the return to their rightful owners of lands previously included in High Security Zones, and the revival of the economy of areas affected by military operations and restoration of livelihoods of those who, for many decades, had been under the yoke of LTTE terrorism.
It must be noted that, in the interest of transparency, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission invited INGOs who have been aggressively critical, to give evidence before the Commission, but this has been publicly rejected by these organizations.
It is much to be regretted that Minister Burt has taken no account of the Sri Lankan Government’s strong refutation of the suggestion that the Government of Sri Lanka deliberately targeted its own civilians, as alleged in the video.
This is in stark contrast with the visible standards maintained by the Sri Lankan Army during a three year long operation to liberate the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the menace of the LTTE, including bringing to safety 300,000 innocent Tamil civilians being held as human shields by the LTTE which has been proscribed as a terrorist organization in 32 countries.
At this crucial time what Sri Lanka needs from its friends is not threats but the space and support for restoration of what was lost over three decades and the opportunity to move rapidly forward towards reconciliation and economic development.”

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Killing beggars and disabled; Sri Lanka's new found solution for poverty

(June 30, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka's ruling family boasts they would make this country 'the wonder of Asia.' It is already true in some aspects.

Sri Lanka is a poor country where the new found solution for poverty is 'killing beggars.'

An organized group that is ubiquitous and elusive to police in Colombo and suburbs is in a killing spree of beggars whilst no one raises voice regarding the misery of this human waste. The method the killers use for execution is is extremely notorious. They smash heads of the beggars as they are asleep on pavement. The tactic seems achieved its objective of terrifying beggars. Most of them now fear to sleep in isolated places as they did earlier.

In the latest incident, this gang killed a self-employed 38 year-old differently-abled man on a tricycle at Mount Lavinia on June 28. The man identified as Mahesh Perera of Sri Jana Mawatha, Aththidiya was under the front canopy of Union Assurance office whose slogan is 'Trust in your tomorrow, today' in the dark due to rain as he was on his way home bringing a parcel of rice for him bought from the money he earned by selling lottery tickets. The killer smashed his head with a heavy stone covering to the sound of rain.

Another man on a wheel chair was killed around a month ago close to famous Gangaramaya Buddhist temple.

This killing spree goes on scot-free and almost no one in this country that boasts for a two and half millennium long Buddhist heritage bother about these helpless men. 

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Lankan war was corporate one, says Arundhati Roy

(June 05, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityThe war in Sri Lanka was not just a war of the Sri Lankans against the Tamil people, according to writer-activist Arundhati Roy. "That was a corporate war. All the large Indian companies are now heading to Sri Lanka to make more money," Roy said on Friday. "The political parties of Tamil Nadu were the only ones who could have stopped the genocide in Sri Lanka, but they chose to stand by silently. A similar thing is happening in central India where tribals are resisting the takeover of natural resources by corporates."

Roy was speaking at a Convention on Operation Green Hunt and Genocidal attack on tribals by Indian State' organised in the city on Friday by the Federation Against Internal Repression. She said the resistance in central India was a fight against injustice and not a rebellion against the state as the government says it is. "The government is on the side of the corporates who want to take over the lands, forests, rivers, the traditional homes of the tribals. Operation Green Hunt follows the Bush doctrine of you are with us, or against us," she said. "Anyone who resists this corporate takeover, whether Gandhian, tribal or Maoist, is branded a terrorist," she said.

Turning her attention to the environmental impact of development, she said there was no ecological way to mine bauxite. "You can never mine bauxite and then turn it into aluminium without destroying the ecological balance of the mountains. The tribals have lived in harmony with the forests and nature for centuries," she said.

For over five years, some of the poorest, most marginalised people in the country have held off some of the world's largest multi-national corporations, she said, referring to tribals and adivasis across the country. "Every institution in this country has been corrupted but the spirit of our people remains strong," she said.

The people's struggles were not against democracy but the ways in which the mechanisms of democracy function. "You're a Gandhian if you protest on the road, and a Maoist if you resist in the forest. How can someone without food go on a hunger strike? To do Gandhian resistance, you need an audience, and there is no audience in the forest," she said.

-Times of India

Monday, December 21, 2009

Freedom offered by Sri Lanka government to Tamil IDPs backlashes

(December 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government says it has opened the main highway from Colombo to Jaffna and people now can travel on the road without passes issued by the Ministry of Defense. The government has sped up the resettlement of Tamil refugees and say they provide all facilities to the people 'liberated' from the iron arm of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

President Mahinda Rajapakse has called an early presidential to get himself elected for a second term before the warmth of the war victory wanes. However, with the ex-Army Commander Sarath Fonseka's coming forward as the opposition common candidate, Sinhala polity is divided and the winner of the presidential depends on minority votes.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has directed his powerful brother Basil Rajapakse, an adviser, for bargaining votes for freedom among the desperate Tamil IDPs. As a result, the Tamils of Vanni now enjoy better treatment from the 'liberator.'

But the 'freedom' also has repercussions. People are on the verge of opening their mouths on the experiences in the hands of the 'liberators' who are now facing war crime allegations due to the inhuman conduct in the final phase of war.

At least one Tamil woman who lived in the government declared 'no fire zone' until 'liberated' by the 'humanitarian operation' of the state security forces has opened her mouth to global media. Thamilvani Gnanakumar, 25, was in the 'no-fire zone' assisting people in health care and she was released after confining her for several months in Manik Farm 'welfare village' what she calls a concentration camp. Vani, a biomedical graduate, is a Sri Lankan origin UK citizen and talked to The Observer from her house in Essex describing her harrowing experience.

She says she waited until now to reveal the full scale of her ordeal in the hope of avoiding reprisals against friends and family held with her. They have now been released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps.

Following are several excerpts from her interview with the UK newspaper:

"It was a concentration camp, where people were not even allowed to talk, not even allowed to go near the fences.

"They were kept from the outside world. The government didn't want people to tell what happened to them, about the missing or the disappearances or the sexual abuse. They didn't want anyone to know.
"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," she said.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything.

"One time I saw an old man was waiting to visit the next camp and this military officer hit the old man. I don't know what the argument was, but the officer just hit him in the back.
"In the same area people were made to kneel down in the hot weather for arguing with the officers. Sometimes it lasted for hours.

"They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members.

Kumar said that on arrival at the camp, near the northern town of Vavuniya, she was put in a large tent with several people she did not know. The camp was guarded by armed soldiers and ringed with high fences and rolls of razor wire. "The first two or three days I was alone there still scare me. When I arrived at the camp I put my bag down and just cried. That feeling still won't go. I just don't want to think about those two or three days in the camp, the fear about what was going to happen to me.

"For the first few days I didn't eat anything. We didn't know where to go to get food. I thought, 'Am I dreaming or is this really happening?' I never thought I would end up in a camp." Tens of thousands of people were crammed into flimsy tents which provided little respite from the intense heat. Toilets and washing facilities could not cope with the demands and food and water were in short supply.

"You have to bathe in an open area in front of others, which I find very uneasy. I stayed next to the police station, so every day I had a bath with the police officers looking at me, men and women. Everyone can see you when you are having a bath. So I would get up early in the morning about 3.30am, so it was dark," she said.

Kumar was held in the best-equipped part of the camp, but even there conditions were dire. "It is not a standard a human being can live in. The basic needs like water and food [were] always a problem. Most of the time you were queuing for water.

"The toilets were terrible, and there was not enough water, so we could not clean them. There were insects and flies everywhere. After two or three days of continuous rain, the sewage was floating on the water and going into the tents and everyone [was] walking through it, up to knee height." She was finally released into the custody of the British High Commission in early September.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Expert with ties to FBI and Vancouver Police authenticates “Sri Lanka War Crimes”-Channel 4 Video

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

Video footage that appears to show Sri Lankan troops committing war crimes by summarily executing captured Tamil Tiger fighters on the battlefield was not fabricated, as claimed by the Sri Lankan Government, an investigation by The Times has found.

The findings come after General Sarath Fonseka, the former head of the army, alleged that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister, had ordered that surrendering Tiger leaders be killed rather than taken prisoner in the final days of the brutal 26-year civil war that ended in May.

The claims, vehemently denied by the Government, added to a lengthy list of war crimes allegations against it.
The video of the alleged battlefield executions, which was aired on Channel 4 in August, shows a naked man, bound and blindfolded, being made to kneel.

Another man, dressed in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform, approaches from behind and shoots him in the head at point-blank range. “It’s like he jumped,” the executor laughs. The camera then pans to show eight similarly bound corpses.

It is impossible to confirm when and where the filming occurred or the identities of the men shown. Pro-Tamil groups alleged that the video was filmed by troops on a mobile phone in January, when they overran the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi in the north of the country. Those claims were denied by government officials, who said they had “established beyond doubt” that the footage was fake.

An analysis for The Times by Grant Fredericks, an independent forensic video specialist who is also an instructor at the FBI National Academy, suggests otherwise. He found no evidence of digital manipulation, editing or any other special effects. However, subtle details consistent with a real shooting, such as a discharge of gas from the barrel of the weapon used, were visible.

“This level of subtle detail cannot be virtually reproduced. This is clearly an original recording,” said Mr Fredericks, who was previously the head of the Vancouver police forensic video unit in Canada.
There was also strong evidence to rule out the use of actors. “Even if the weapons fired blanks, the barrel is so close to the head of the ‘actors’ that the gas discharge alone leaves the weapon with such force it would likely cause serious injury or death,” Mr Fredericks said.

The reactions of those executed was consistent with reality, he added. “The victims do not lunge forward . . . [they] fall backward in a very realistic reaction, unlike what is normally depicted in the movies.”

In Mr Fredericks’s opinion “the injury to the head of the second victim and the oozing liquid from that injury cannot be reproduced realistically without editing cuts, camera angle changes and special effects. No [errors] exist anywhere in any of the images that support a technical fabrication of the events depicted,” he said.

The Sri Lankan Government said in a statement in September that the footage was “done with a sophisticated video camera, dubbed to give the gunshot effect and transferred to a mobile phone.”

Mr Fredericks’s research showed that code embedded in the footage appeared to match with software used in Nokia mobile phones.” He said: “The recording is completely consistent with a cell phone video recording and there are no signs of editing or alterations.”

The strong evidence that the footage does show real executions could reinforce international calls for an independent war crimes investigation — something that the Sri Lanka Government has resisted. A Sri Lankan army spokesman requested that a copy of Mr Fredericks’s report be sent to him yesterday, but did not reply when it was.

Mr Fonseka, who resigned from the army last month after being sidelined, is campaigning to unseat President Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister’s brother, at elections next month. [courtesy: Times.UK]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tigers begged me to broker surrender

by Marie Colvin (May 2009)

MCTC0324C.jpgMarie Colvin, recognized as Best Foreign Correspondent in many of the British Press Awards, was wounded when she was fired upon in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan Army in April 2001.
IT was a desperate last phone call but it did not sound like a man who would be dead within hours. Balasingham Nadesan, political leader of the Tamil Tigers, had nowhere to turn, it seemed.

“We are putting down our arms,” he told me late last Sunday night by satellite phone from the tiny slip of jungle and beach on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka where the Tigers had been making their last stand.

I could hear machinegun fire in the background as he continued coolly: “We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?”

He was well aware that surrendering to the victorious Sri Lankan army would be the most dangerous moment in the 26-year civil war between the Tigers and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

I had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat, since being smuggled into rebel territory eight years ago.

At that time the Tigers controlled a third of the island; now these two men were trying to save the lives of the remaining 300 fighters and their families, many of them injured. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.

For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion.

Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.
Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.

The conflict seemed set for a peaceful outcome. Puleedevan, a jolly, bespectacled figure, found time to text me a smiling photo of himself in a bunker.

By last Sunday night, however, as the army pressed in, there were no more political demands from the Tigers and no more photos. Nadesan refused to use the word “surrender” when he called me, but that is what he intended to do. He wanted Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety.

Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.

It was still late Sunday night in London. I tried to get through to Nadesan’s satellite phone but failed, so I called a Tigers contact in South Africa to relay Nambiar’s message: wave a white flag high.

I was woken at 5am by a phone call from another Tigers contact in southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. “I think it’s all over,” he said. “I think they’re all dead.”

That evening, the Sri Lankan army displayed their bodies. What had gone wrong with the surrender? I would soon find out.

I discovered that on Sunday night Nadesan had also called Rohan Chandra Nehru, a Tamil MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, who immediately contacted Rajapaksa.

The MP recounted the events of the next hours: “The president himself told me he would give full security to Nadesan and his family. Nadesan said he had 300 people with him, some injured.

“I said to the president, ‘I will go and take their surrender.’

“Rajapaksa said, ‘No, our army is very generous and very disciplined. There is no need for you to go to a warzone. You don’t need to put your life at risk’.”

Chandra Nehru said Basil, the president’s brother, called him. “He said, ‘They will be safe. They have to hoist a white flag.’ And he gave me the route they should follow.”

The MP got through to Nadesan at about 6.20am local time on Monday. The sound of gunfire was louder than ever.

“We are ready,” Nadesan told him. “I’m going to walk out and hoist the white flag.”

“I told him: ‘Hoist it high, brother – they need to see it. I will see you in the evening’,” said Chandra Nehru.

A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them.

Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down.

The source said all in the group were killed. He is now in hiding, fearful for his life. Chandra Nehru has fled the country after being threatened, the MP says, by the president and his brother.

Over the past few days, Nambiar’s role as UN envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, “displayed the qualities of a great military leader”.

Although the Tamil Tigers are internationally banned because of past acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, Nadesan and Puleedevan favoured a political solution to the conflict. Had they lived, they would have been credible political leaders for the Tamil minority.

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran, their commander, who built the movement into a military machine. He was paranoid and ruthless, and he remained committed to military means even as the Tamil Tigers lost ground in the face of the Sri Lankan army onslaught.

Last week, although rumours circulated that Prabhakaran had survived, the organisation was in disarray. Surviving Tamil leaders spoke of turning to a political process, while more militant representatives threatened revenge attacks.

I am in a difficult position as a journalist reporting this story. I first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils. Journalists had been largely banned from the northern Tamil area for six years.

I found people living in squalor and doctors pleading for medicine. Leaders such as Nadesan and Puleedevan told me they had reduced their demands from independence to autonomy within Sri Lanka.

As I was being smuggled out of the area at night, we were ambushed by the Sri Lankan army. I was unhurt until I shouted, “Journalist, journalist.” Then they fired an RPG at me, severely wounding me.

After intermittent contact with the Tamils since then, I had a series of phone calls from the leadership in recent months as the Tigers fell back in the face of the army’s new offensive. In one call, Nadesan said the Tigers would abide by the result of any referendum and begged for a ceasefire. His plea was rejected by Colombo.

There was dancing on the capital’s streets last week after the defeat of the Tigers. Victory has come, however, at a shocking cost to Tamil civilians. The United Nations says that at least 7,000 died in the last onslaught, although the toll is believed to be much higher. Some 280,000 who had been trapped by the fighting have been herded into “welfare” camps surrounded by razor wire where conditions are said to be deteriorating fast.

Yesterday international aid agencies claimed up to three families were crowding into each tent and being forced to queue for hours for water and food. One aid worker said there was only one doctor in a camp holding 44,000 people.

Refugees reached by The Sunday Times through aid organisations vented their fury. “Look at how we live,” said one woman in a camp with her two children. “We have no space, no protection from the sun. We are prisoners with armed guards and barbed wire. What do they think I will do – a mother and her two children? Why are we here?”

Reports were circulating that members of paramilitary gangs were seizing young people from the camps, accusing them of being Tigers and holding them in secret facilities, although this could not be confirmed.
The president has talked of reaching out to the Tamil community, unifying the country and resettling 80% of the refugees by the end of the year.

“I do not think that is realistic,” said Anna Neistat, of Human Rights Watch. “There is no procedure to release anyone.”

Whatever the declared intentions of the government, there seems to be little prospect of uniting Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future unless the Tamil grievances that enabled the Tigers to flourish are dealt with.
Additional reporting: Heather Mark, Colombo
[London Times reporter Marie Colvin visitng Iraq mass graves, lost her eye in a grenade attack by Sri Lanka Army in Hot Docs.
[courtesy: Times, UK]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sri Lanka government bars media acces to IDPs to cover up the faults

(December 06, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government has decided to postpone opening of the IDP camps and the newly resettled villages in the island's Northern Province to media and NGOs in order to cover up the weaknesses in the way the people are treated, analysts say.

Although the tension on IDP camps in Vavuniya have ebbed with recent resettlement and  granting of permission for the IDPs to go out of the camps temporarily, there are allegations that the government has resettled some IDPs in temporary mini camps and many IDPs have not given the promised facilities for resettlement.

Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama declared in a BBC interview Tuesday that the media now had full access, prompting a flood of requests from reporters to travel to the former war zone in the north.However, AFP reported that restrictions on visits to the northern district of Vavuniya where the government maintains its camp complex remain in place despite them being declared "open" on Tuesday.

"The restrictions on journalists to visit displaced people in camps have not been relaxed yet," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters.

Pressed for a date when the camps would be open to the media, the minister said: "We are trying to lift the ban on media access, but it will take time."

"The media is not allowed to go into the camps," the defence ministry's media centre chief Lakshman Hulugalle said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said they had also been denied accesss to the camps and there had been no relaxation of the restrictions despite Bogollagama's announcement.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tamil detainees attacked in Sri Lanka prison

(November 17, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka's opposition political parties led by the Democratic People's Front and the United Socialist Party demonstrated today in front of the Magazine Prison in Colombo against an incident of assaulting the Tamil detainees brutally within the prison.

The organizers of the agitation say they have reports that a member of prison staff who belongs to the majority Sinhala community has led some other Sinhala prisoners to attack the Tamil detainees. One prisoner has sustained severe spinal injuries while another prisoner has lost front teeth in the attack. At least ten others have sustained injuries.

Sri Lanka prisons have a history of massacres of Tamil prisoners by majority Sinhala community prisoners with the connivance of the prison officials.

In one such incident, 52 Tamil prisoners were beaten to death in Welikada prison in Colombo in 1983.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Eight years in remand for 100 miligrams of heorine in Sri Lanka

(November 03, Colombo - Lanka Polity) A suspect charged with having 100 milligrams of heroine was in remand custody without been convicted for eight years in Sri Lanka. 

His case had been diverted to High Court instead of Magistrate Court by mistake and the poor man found no justice until his plight was observed by Wattala Magistrate during an official visit to Mahara Prison.

The man identified as L.A. Sarath Kumara was in remand since August 10, 2001, prison sources said. The Magistrate has directed the court to consult the Attorney General to acquit him. Until then the suspect was granted personal bail of Rs. 50,000.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Western super powers become tough on Sri Lanka

(October 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Two Western Super powers have strongly asked Sri Lankahuman rights violations during the last phase of the offensive against the Tami rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elama (LTTE) that the state forces totally annihilated in May 2009 eliminating almost entire leadership. There is wide spread allegations regarding the violations of internatinal human rights covenanats both by state and rebel forces. However, the governemnt of Sri Lanka led by President Mahinda Rajapakse is vehemently against any kind of investigation against its toops despite the region's oldest democracy is losing its reputation and the island is being isolated by its traditional Western alies. to account for the alleged

"Accountability is an essential component of national reconciliation.  The United States looks to the Government of Sri Lanka to identify an appropriate and credible mechanism and initiate a process for accountability," US embassy of Sri Lanka said in a statement issued on October 22 in relation to a report detailing incidents that allegedly occurred during the final months of the conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil rebel iberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam that might constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity and related harms. The United States Department of State delivered the report to Congressional Appropriations Committee staff yesterday. 

The Department of State has prepared the report pursuant to a Congressional request and also provided a copy to the Sri Lankan Embassy. The report compiles alleged incidents, as reported by a wide range of primary and secondary sources, involving both sides in the conflict.  It does not reach any legal or factual conclusions, says the US embassy adding that information concerning the majority of incidents cited in this report has originated in first-hand accounts communicated by persons from within the government-declared No Fire Zones and locations close to the fighting.  

The United States says it "recognizes a state’s inherent right to defend itself from armed attacks, including those by non-state actors, such as a terrorist group like the LTTE.  The United States also expects states and non-state actors to comply with their international legal obligations, including the obligation to protect civilians in armed conflict."

Earlier the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for the Department for International Development, have urged Sri Lankan authorities to fulfill their human rights obligations in response to the findings of a recent EU report on the issue. They said:
'The European Commission’s report on Sri Lanka’s implementation of international human rights conventions raised serious concerns, which we shared."

The report highlighted failings in Sri Lanka’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report is a precursor to the Commission’s recommendation to EU Member States on whether Sri Lanka should continue to benefit from the GSP+ trade preference scheme. "We are clear that to do so Sri Lanka must respect its international human rights obligations under GSP+.We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take immediate action to address the issues outlined in this report," said the UK officials.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Terror suspects languish in Sri Lanka's prisons for more than 10 years without trial, human rights lawyer points out

(September 11, 2009 - Lanka Polity) C.J. Weliamuna, one of Sri Lanka's leading human rights lawyers says that some Tamil Tiger rebel suspects languish in the island's prisons for 10 to 15 years without being convicted or acquitted.

The judges cannot grant them bail as they are either indicted or detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), said Weliamuna delivering the keynote address of a seminar held in Colombo Center for Society and Religion yesterday on PTA and the imprisonment of media person J.N. Thissanayagam for 20 years on charges framed under PTA.

Almost all of these ill-fated persons are ethnic Tamils, he said. In many other cases persons are held for years under PTA and they are released later without charges. The Defense Secretary has wide powers to arrest and detain persons under PTA that is needed to be amended, according to the human rights organizations of the island.

Responding to Mr. Weliamuna's speech, a women activist said that her organization was trying to unite a woman who was acquitted recently by courts after holding her for many years in prison, with her husband that lives in Jaffna in the Northern Province. The woman still lives in jail with her seven or eight years old daughter since no person affords to accept her in Colombo since citizens are in fear of being suspected as the sympathizers of the defeated Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka introduced PTA in 1979 initially as a temporary measure to curtail the activities of the Tamil separatist organizations. However, it exists even three decades after too while government has introduced terrorism prevention measures under emergency regulations as well since recently.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ninety-one suspects die in police custody in Sri Lanka under current President Mahinda Rajapakse

(September 10, 2009 - Lanka Polity) The number of suspects died while they are in police custody is increasing rapidly after present President Mahinda Rajapakse assumed duty including the portfolio of Minister of Defense, a report submitted by the government in the parliament said.

Government Chief Whip Dinesh Gunawardhana in response to a question asked by Marxist nationalist People's Liberation Front (JVP) said that 91 suspects died in police custody since November 2005 to 16 August during the tenure of the present Minister of Defense.

The number increased drastically as 11 persons died in 2006, 20 in 2007, 26 in 2008 and 32 in 2009 so far.

A considerable number of suspects were killed recently by police citing that they were killed as they attempted to attack police and to escape whilst they had accompanied police to recover hidden weapons. Human rights organizations claim that this kind of police action amounts to extra-judicial killings.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sri Lanka polity on the verge of the limit of bearing police atrocities

(August 15, 2009 - Lanka Polity) Sri Lankan polity seems at the brink of the limit of the patience on the ongoing spate of police atrocities.

On August 13, Angulana police station situated around 10 km south of Colombo was attacked by the residents of the area following the recovery of the bodies of two youths that were arrested the previous day in relation to an incident of indecency towards a woman.

The two victims, Dhanushka Udaya Kumara (21) and Dinesh Tharanga (27) were the residents of houses close to Angulana Cooperative Shop. The mother of Dinesh Tharanga, Devika Vinifreeda says that she visited her son and his friend that were in police custody in the night of August 12th. However, when she went to visit them again in the following morning, the officers had told her that the suspects were released.

The police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara said that there are no entries regarding the said arrest in police files. A spokesman of Mount Lavinia police station said to Dinamina newspaper that the suspects had been the members of an underworld gang and they might have been killed by a rival gang. However, on August 14, the same Mount Lavinia police produced five suspects including the Officer-in -Charge of Angulana police station in the magistrate court with a B report related to homicide.

The bodies of the two youths were later recovered with gunshots near a bridge located close to Angulana police station and on the railway line. The angry residents of the area attacked the police station with clubs and stones injuring officials including the Officer-in-Charge T.M.D. Newton. Police Department later transferred the officials to other stations.

Before the public protest mounted the Police Department attempted to transfer the officials and to close the file of this brutal murder. Transferring of junior officials is the only action taken against the police offenders in Sri Lanka in recent times. In another incident, five police officials of the Colombo Crime Division were also transferred with regard to an incident of torture of a student of an IT campus in Malabe, around 20 kilometers away from the capital city.

the student, Nipuna Ramanayaka, was severely tortured by the wife and a offspring of the director of the Colombo Crime Division SSP Vaas Gunasekara. At the moment of the writing, the media reported that SSP Vaas Gunawardhana had been transferred to Police Headquarters with immediate effect. No action against the police officer's wife and son has been taken so far despite repeated questioning of the media.

Meanwhile, the alleged police officer is accused of staging a drama of recovering a suspected Tamil Tiger van laden with large amounts of explosives. Another senior police officer who is in charge of the area the recovery was made has challenged that the said recovery is a farce. Media accuses that SSP Vaas Gunawardhana staged this drama to cover from disgrace caused by the allegations against his wife and son that are publicly enjoying impunity.

Recently, Sri Lankan Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe spoke of police actions violating human rights of one of his staff members that was arrested in an illegal manner with weapons.

Most of the police arrests in Sri Lanka violate the law and can be categorized as abductions. No warrants are produced; suspects are not explained the causes for the arrests and no receipts are issued to the families in accordance with Presidential directions. The IT student who was tortured by the police family says that the police threatened him to be killed alleging him to be a member of an underworld gang.

Police often gun down the suspected underworld goons and say that they attempted to escape whilst they were taken to show the hidden weapons.

Human rights organizations allege that the government's measures to suppress the underworld have opened wide space for police atrocities. Summary killings of underworld figures in the guise of opening fire at them as they attempt to escape save the persons that give contracts to the underworld.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sri Lanka Human Rights Minister's coordinating secretary abducted; suspected of being an underworld leader

(August 04, 2009 - Lanka Polity) Shan Jayasinghe, a coordinating secretary of Sri Lanka Minister of Human Rights has been abducted by a an unknown group that came in a white van. The fate of the victim is yet to be known.

The person is known as an underworld gang leader in his residential area, Mathugama in the Kaluthara district despite his being a coordinating secretary of the minister of Human Rights.

Sri Lanka government has launched an operation against the underworld.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A post-Sarath Nanda Silva scenario in the making?

(July 98m 2009) Two fundamental rights petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking changes to the verdicts delivered under the purview of the former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva

One petition was filed by B. K. Abhaya Padmasiri Balasuriya of Bahirawakanda, Kandy citing that the former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, when he was the Chairman of the Court of Appeal, made a district court judge of Kandy to lodge a false complaint against him and he was remanded for 294 days as a result of it.

The petitioner says that the former Chief Justice chased him away without allowing him to make clarifications last year when he attempted to proceed with a fundamental rights petition. He also said that he had to wait until the former Chief Justice retired to resubmit the petition.

In the second incident, the Asia Pacific Golf Course Limited, Access International and the owners Water's Edge residencies have appealed through a motion for reconsidering the verdict in relation to the property citing that they incurred losses due to the Supreme Court verdict to revert them to the state. 

In Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights, the latest policy report from the International Crisis Group, warned that the Sri Lankan judiciary is not working in a fair and impartial way that secures justice and human rights for everyone regardless of ethnicity. This risks undermining the government’s recent military victory over the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). A durable national reconciliation process is only possible if human and constitutional rights are fully restored.

“The judiciary has not acted as a check on presidential and legislative power but has instead contributed to the political alienation of Tamils”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Under the former chief justice, the Supreme Court’s rulings strengthened political hardliners among Sinhala nationalist parties”.
Rather than assuaging conflict, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. They are neither constraining militarization of Sri Lankan society nor protecting minority rights. Instead, a politicized bench has entrenched favored allies, punished foes and blocked compromises with the Tamil minority. The judiciary’s intermittent interventions on important political questions have limited settlement options for the ethnic conflict.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

India decriminalises same sex relationships!

(July 02, 2009) Equal Grounds, a non-profit organization of Sri Lanka that seeks equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-sexual communities of the island, congratulates the Indian court ruling that decriminalises sames sex relationships. Today, 2nd July 2009, the High Court in Delhi struck down a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

Delhi’s High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a “violation of fundamental rights”. The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made them illegal, was an “antithesis of the right to equality”.

"We congratulate a decade long struggle by Indian LGBT activists to repeal this insidious law," says Equal Grounds adding "India’s bold and forward thinking decision gives hope to the millions of LGBTIQ persons in the entire region. We hope that Sri Lanka will seriously think of doing the same and welcoming all people regardless of caste, creed, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity as EQUAL citizens of this country."

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White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...