Govt. under fire for rights abuses
By Dilmini Samaranayake
The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sri Lanka's human rights
situation plummeted last year with killings - particularly those
opposed to the LTTE - reaching an alarming proportion.
HRW said the spate of killings blamed on the Tigers reached "an
alarming rate of one per day," by June 2005. Since the February
2002 cease-fire agreement between the Government and Tamil Tiger
rebels, at least 200 Tamils have been killed for political reasons,
of the killings have been attributed to the LTTE," the rights
group said in its World Report for 2006 released on Wednesday."Tamil
Tigers continued to assassinate political opponents with complete
impunity," it said.
HRW observed that "sectarian interests hijacked aid distribution
mechanisms," to those affected by both the war and the 2004
tsunami in Sri Lanka's north and east, that "wrought tremendous
also accused the rebels of continuing to recruit children into its
ranks despite repeated pledges to halt the practice. Recruitment
rates dropped during the first half of 2005 following the Indian-ocean
tsunami, but "increased significantly in mid-2005," the
report said, citing numerous reports of child recruitment taking
place at temple festivals in eastern Sri Lanka.
483 cases of child recruitment were recorded by the United Nations
children's agency, although the actual figure is believed to be
much higher, the report said.
HRW report also berated Sri Lanka's police force for continued acts
of torture and the impunity with which it functions. Despite attempts
at reform urged by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and
the Police Commission in 2003, including ensuring that families
and lawyers have access to detainees and holding officers in command
responsible for torture in their stations, abuses continued, the
NHRC reported at least 19 cases of death in custody, while police
torture continued to be reported. The HRW also accused the police
of torturing children and cited a case of an 11-year-old boy accused
of stealing money, beaten and sexually tortured in the Kahawatte
police station. "While some cases of deaths in custody and
torture have been investigated, no one has been prosecuted or punished
as yet," the report said, criticizing the impunity with which
the police continue to function.
Lanka was named among other Asian nations noted for human rights
violations - Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh and China - where
the HRW said "respect for human rights has been seriously eroded”.